COUPEVILLE – In Colton Harris-Moore’s mind it was war.
Hiding in the woods near his mother’s house in September, the 15-year-old Camano Island teenager watched as deputies searched a tent camp where he’d been hiding, according to court documents.
“Mom, cops were here, everything’s on lockdown,” Harris-Moore allegedly wrote in a note after deputies left. “P.S. – Cops wanna play hu!? Well it’s not no lil’ game … It’s war! &tell them that.”
On Monday, Harris-Moore was behind bars and facing a dozen new charges that could keep him locked up for the rest of his teenage years.
“We have the ability to keep him, it is important to us that he not get out,” Island County prosecutor Greg Banks said.
The boy was arrested Friday on outstanding warrants for theft and possession of stolen property. He also was booked on investigation of residential burglary. On Monday, Banks filed an additional 12 charges, all for possession of stolen property.
The September search of Harris-Moore’s tent camp allegedly turned up a cache of stolen computers, cell phones, jewelry and pricey remote-controlled toys.
Harris-Moore did not work alone, police say.
On Monday, Island County sheriff deputies released a wanted poster for Harley Davidson Ironwing of Stanwood. The 17-year-old, wanted on warrants from a Snohomish County felony case, is suspected of being Harris-Moore’s accomplice, Island County sheriff’s detective Ed Wallace said.
Police had been looking for Harris-Moore since July, when he didn’t show up in court to face theft and possession of stolen property charges.
Twice in the last few weeks, police nearly had Harris-Moore in their grasp only to watch the boy flee into the woods. They also suspect he’s been hiding out in empty vacation homes and staying with friends.
He was captured Friday night after a neighbor reported a light on in a home that should have been empty, court records show.
After a 45-minute standoff, the boy gave himself up to deputies.
Police had suspected Harris-Moore might be armed with a handgun. Deputies found bear-strength pepper spray in the home, Wallace said. The repellant is three-times stronger than the kind used by police, he said. It is not considered a weapon under state law.
Harris-Moore likely cannot be charged as an adult because he didn’t commit violent crimes, Banks said. The longest he could be locked up is until his 21st birthday.
Banks on Monday said he intends to seek a long stay behind bars for the teen.
“It is safe to say he is looking at a sentence measured in years, not in days,” Banks said.
Deputies continue to investigate Harris-Moore in connection with numerous other misdeeds, including identity theft, Wallace said.
Banks alleged the boy is responsible for a “crime wave” on Camano Island.
“It’s been a little bit terrifying for folks,” he said.
Judge Alan R. Hancock on Monday increased Harris-Moore’s bail to $35,000.
The move came at the request of special deputy prosecutor Colleen Kenimond. She cited boy’s lengthy criminal past and said Harris-Moore poses a threat to neighbors.
She also called attention to the boy’s history of failing to show up for court.
“We’re concerned he stay put,” she said.
A court-appointed defense attorney, Rachel Hintzen Miyoshi, told the judge that Harris-Moore didn’t have the money to post bail and is “not going anywhere.”
The boy’s mother, Pamela Kohler, 55, was not at Monday’s hearing. Reached at her home later in the day, she said she has no intention of bailing out her son.
“I don’t ever bail anybody, I don’t care who it is,” she said.
About 150 people packed into the South Camano Grange Monday night to attend a meeting the sheriff’s office called about the boy and his apprehension.
The fear was obvious.
People spoke about bolting their doors and keeping their kids inside their houses. One man threatened to shoot anyone who entered his home.
The standing-room-only crowd peppered Sheriff Mark Brown with questions.
People wanted to know why it took so long to catch Harris-Moore. They wanted to know why his alleged accomplice was not in custody. The asked why deputies didn’t bring Harris-Moore to the ground earlier, and suggested he should have been chased with police dogs or zapped with an electric stun gun when he ran away.
Shelby Shondel lives on the same street as Harris-Moore. He told the sheriff that he spoke with deputies who had searched the teen’s home months ago. He said he urged them then to use a police dog to track down the fugitive.
“Now I’m hearing you tell me this kid could have used an automatic weapon? This could have been over months ago if you’d used a dog,” Shondel said.
The Island County Sheriff’s Office does not have police dogs, although it had arranged to use dogs from neighboring departments.
Sheriff Brown praised his deputies’ efforts and the community’s response.
Among those in attendance were Juanita Rogers and her 15-year-old daughter, Kaiti. It was Rogers’ husband, Jeff, who made the 911 call Friday that led to Harris-Moore’s capture.
Juanita Rogers, a care giver, said she noticed a light on in a neighbor’s shed on Thursday. She told her husband, and when he saw a light in a neighbor’s home on Friday, he consulted Kaiti, then phoned deputies.
Juanita Rogers said her family did nothing heroic. She’s just glad the boy has been caught.
“To me it is good to have caught him, but there is a sad part, too,” she said. “He’s very young and he just needs a friend, a good friend, to talk to him. He needs somebody to show him love and care.”
Friends and family of the boy have started a fund to help pay Harris-Moore’s defense, Kohler said.
She’s hoping to raise enough money to hire a private attorney.
“The best way to help him is to help him get a good lawyer,” she said.
Kohler is convinced that her son is not responsible for all the crime on Camano Island, but she said Monday that she knows he likely will spend a year or more in a juvenile detention.
She said she’s made plans for the boy to live off the island after he is released.
That’s welcome news for Barbara Libby, who suspects Harris-Moore in two break-ins at her Camano Island home.
The island community has lived in fear that the rogue teen would break in one time too often, and that somebody would get hurt.
“It’s been horrible for us,” Libby said.
Reporter Jackson Holtz: 425-339-3437 or firstname.lastname@example.org.