Teen burglar can’t run forever, police say

CAMANO ISLAND — Colton Harris-Moore, the notorious teenage burglar, appears to have come home to Camano Island and is again running from police.

Island County sheriff’s deputies are convinced Harris-Moore, 17, is back to prowling vacation homes.

First, there was a rise in break-ins. Then, late Thursday, a deputy saw someone matching Harris-Moore’s description run away after a brief chase in a stolen sports car.

“I’m convinced it was him,” Sheriff Mark Brown said. “He spit in the eye of law enforcement. He spit in the eyes of the juvenile services that tried to help him and he spit in the eye of the citizens that have tried to help him.”

The teenage fugitive will be caught, Brown said.

Some people who live on south Camano Island are worried about the saga’s next chapter. They fear it could end with deadly force being used by a homeowner or police officer.

“He’s a kid who’s basically being a dumb kid,” neighbor Patrick Campbell said. But if he keeps doing what he’s doing, “He could be a dead kid.”

In June 2007, Harris-Moore was convicted of three counts of residential burglary and sentenced to at least three years in confinement. On April 30, he escaped from a group home in Renton. He’s been on the run since.

Island County sheriff’s deputies have been concerned the teenager might return to his island home and resume his burglary habit.

In the past few weeks, several people have called police to say they thought they saw the 6-foot, 5-inch-tall, 200-pound Harris-Moore. Until Thursday, however, officials said they weren’t certain he was back.

The teen’s mother, Pamela Kohler, doesn’t believe her son was involved in Thursday night’s incident, but she does think he’s living on the island.

She believes her son is being cared for and is staying with a family on the south end of Camano. She said she doesn’t know precisely where he’s living, however.

The sheriff said his detectives haven’t been able to corroborate Kohler’s claim.

Harris-Moore calls his mother once in a while, she said. She wants the criminal chapter of her son’s life to come to an end.

“I have talked my head off to him about turning himself in, and he said he’s working on it,” Kohler said. “I really don’t think he’ll do it in the summertime. Who wants to leave the good weather and go to jail?”

Around 11:30 p.m. Thursday, a deputy tried to pull over a black Mercedes sports car that was speeding and driving erratically, Brown said.

Instead of stopping, the driver, who is believed to be Harris-Moore, jumped out of the moving car and ran. The car crashed into a trash bin behind the Elger Bay Grocery.

An Everett police dog was called in early Friday morning but was unable to track down the driver. Later Friday, a team of Marysville police officers trained in tracking scoured the woods and fields for clues, dressed in camouflage uniforms and carrying rifles.

Deputies determined the car was stolen from a south Camano home Thursday evening, Brown said. They also found stolen property in the car.

The evidence points to Harris-Moore, Brown said.

On Friday deputies handed out fliers featuring the boy’s mug shot.

It was a flashback to February 2007, the last time deputies distributed wanted posters for Harris-Moore after he had eluded capture for eight months.

Before his arrest that winter, the teenager was suspected in dozens of burglaries. Each time police got close, he’d slip away into the woods.

For a while, stories circulated that Harris-Moore slipped out of his shoes, climbed trees and slept in the woods. More likely, police said he was breaking into vacation homes and sleeping on couches.

They accused him of using home computers, stealing credit cards and eating people’s food.

Once, deputies posed as pizza delivery men to try to nab the teen, but he got away.

Harris-Moore finally was caught when a neighbor noticed lights on in a home and called 911. Police surrounded the home and his mom convinced the teenager to give himself up.

“Ever since he was a little guy, he’s never thought through if he did something, what would happen,” his mom said. “He don’t think of the end results. He never has.”

Kohler said she’s tried unsuccessfully to get him help. Harris-Moore has been in trouble with the law almost continuously since he turned 12.

Islanders blame the teenager for changing their way of life, said Josh Flickner, manager of the Elger Bay Grocery.

People once left their homes unlocked and would leave their vehicles running in the parking lot of his store. Not anymore, Flicker said.

“The whole island is tired of putting up with someone who has a blatant disregard for right and wrong,” he said.

Kyle Howe and Shay Quick, both 17, said they grew up with Harris-Moore.

He’s always been a problem, they said. He likes to egg people on, throwing rocks and looking to be chased, the pair said. South Camano is the only place he knows, and he knows it well.

It’s unlikely police will catch him if he flees into the underbrush, Howe said.

“If it turns into a wood chase, no way, the kid’s too fast,” he said.

The boy is no Rambo or Robin Hood, the sheriff said. Eventually, police will catch up with him. This time, Brown said he’ll ask Island County prosecutors to try the 17-year-old as an adult.

Harris-Moore could face an escape charge in King County, officials said.

Howe believes his former classmate will get caught.

“Sooner or later, he’s going to do something stupid,” he said.

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