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Bahamas police, FBI: 'Barefoot bandit' apprehended

By the CNN Wire Staff
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Bahamas: 'Barefoot Bandit' captured
  • NEW: FBI confirms suspect is "barefoot bandit"
  • Colton Harris-Moore in custody in Bahamas, police say
  • Resort describes dramatic arrest of teen suspect
  • Police say the arrest followed a high-speed boat chase

(CNN) -- After eluding authorities for years from Washington state to Indiana, a notorious teenage fugitive called the "barefoot bandit" was arrested Sunday following a high-speed boat chase in the Bahamas, police said.

Police said 19-year-old Colton Harris-Moore was taken into custody without incident following the chase in the waters off Harbour Island. Authorities responded to a reported sighting of Harris-Moore just after 2 a.m ET Sunday, said police commissioner Ellison Greenslade.

However, an account of the arrest offered by a spokeswoman for Romora Bay Resort and Marina described a dramatic capture befitting a James Bond film.

The marina's security director, Kenneth Strachan, saw a barefoot young man about 2 a.m. Sunday carrying a gun with a knapsack over his shoulder running up the dock. "They're going to kill me," the man told Strachan, according to a statement issued by the resort.

The man had arrived on Harbour Island from the nearby island of Eleuthera in a 15-foot skiff, said resort manager Anne Ward in the statement. Strachan put out a call for help, telling Ward to come as soon as possible.

Video: 'Barefoot Bandit' allegations

Upon her arrival, Ward told guards to disable the skiff's engine as the man ran through the resort property, attempting to steal a boat from a nearby house as a crowd gathered at the marina, the statement said.

However, Ward said he ran aground in the second boat, as he didn't realize how shallow the water was. Police and marina authorities surrounded his boat, and police shot out its engines, she said in the statement.

"At one point, the boy threw his computer in the water and put a gun to his head. He was going to kill himself. Police talked him out of it." Authorities loaded the suspect into the resort's work truck and took him to the Harbour Island police station, she said.

Harris-Moore was being transported to Nassau, Bahamas, on Sunday, authorities said. Greenslade said police seized a gun and other items from him.

The fact that Strachan could call for help was significant, the resort said, noting phone service on Harbour Island has been erratic since an underwater cable was cut recently.

The FBI held off on confirming that the suspect was indeed "barefoot bandit" Harris-Moore, with the agency saying it wanted to positively identify him through fingerprints. But Sunday night, the FBI announced its conclusion.

"We've confirmed that's it him -- the 'barefoot bandit,' Colton Harris Moore," said Steve Dean, assistant special agent in charge for the FBI's Seattle, Washington, office.

Greenslade said earlier Sunday that the suspect was positively identified as Harris-Moore by local authorities, and that he was seen by a doctor following his arrest and "appeared to be in very good health."

"The first thing I thought was that it's my bad luck, because there's another one right next door he could have taken," said William Sport of Florida, who owns the second boat. He said he had just arrived on Harbour Island for his annual monthlong stay there, but that his 32-foot boat had enough fuel on board to make it back to Florida.

Sport told CNN he had left the keys in the boat, although it had a cover on. The suspect took the cover off, found the keys and started the boat, he said.

Sport said he believes he saw the suspect about midnight. He said he had just finished a dinner party on the boat and was walking down the dock when a young man ran past him. At the time, he thought nothing of it, he said. He found out later that the suspect had come back and swam to the boat from shore.

Bahamian police have told him they will take care of repairs to his boat after shooting the engines out, he said.

Harris-Moore is suspected of flying a stolen plane to the Bahamas. He has been on the run since 2008, when he escaped from a juvenile halfway house in Renton, Washington, after pleading guilty to three counts of burglary and being sentenced to three years. He was called the "barefoot bandit" because he was without shoes when he allegedly broke into houses.

He has been linked to a series of home break-ins in Oregon and Washington, but authorities believed he moved eastward recently. He was suspected of breaking into airports in South Dakota and Nebraska, and also suspected in the thefts of several cars.

Authorities in Madison County, Nebraska, issued an arrest warrant for him last month on charges of burglary and theft by unlawful taking or deception. The affidavit supporting the warrant details a crime spree fitting the alleged pattern of the elusive teen, who has amassed thousands of followers on Facebook.

On Tuesday, a federal judge in Washington unsealed an indictment for airplane theft against Harris-Moore in the theft of an aircraft last year in Idaho, which was flown to Washington state and found crashed. DNA evidence and fingerprints linked Harris-Moore to the plane theft, the indictment states.

Harris-Moore was linked to the theft of a single-engine plane last week at Monroe County Airport in Bloomington, Indiana.

Bruce Payton, the airport director, said a 2009 Cessna 400 Corvalis was reported missing from a locked hangar. He said the owner of the plane was told by the U.S. Coast Guard that an emergency locator transmitter for the Cessna was sending out a beacon from the Bahamas.

The plane was found just off Abaco Island in the Bahamas, police said, and evidence from the aircraft was taken by investigators. Authorities were also looking into several reported thefts and break-ins reported in the area since the crash-landing.

The FBI had offered a $10,000 reward for information leading to his arrest. An FBI statement indicated that agents believe Harris-Moore was involved in the Indiana theft, with the statement saying, "Should you see Harris-Moore in The Bahamas, please contact the nearest Royal Bahamas Police Force Station."

Greenslade said Harris-Moore is expected to appear in court later this week.

Dean said he wasn't surprised at reports of Harris-Moore's arrest. "I'm glad this is over," he said.

"There was a big effort to find him, and on a small island, there were a lot of burglaries ... eventually, he was bound to be caught," Dean said.

In Yankton, South Dakota, on June 17, residents returned to find an intruder inside the house, said Assistant Police Chief Jerry Hisek.

"He'd eaten some of their food, took a shower, cut his hair," Hisek said of the intruder. "He started to run and the guy chased him into the basement of the house."

The intruder "laser-dotted the guy and said, 'I have a gun. Get out of here, or I'm going to kill you.'" Hisek said the owner did not know if the individual had a laser pen or a gun.

Harris-Moore was suspected in the incident, and "we're classifying him as armed," Hisek said.

In December, Time magazine dubbed Harris-Moore "America's Most Wanted Teenage Bandit," and a Facebook site for him showed nearly 58,000 "fans" as of Sunday.

Harris Moore's mother, Pamela Kohler, has told CNN affiliate KIRO that she wanted her son to turn himself in, but said she was "proud" her son had actually taught himself to fly.

20th Century Fox has purchased the rights for a film based on the exploits of the young fugitive.

"I think it's sad, very sad," Dean said Sunday of support for Harris-Moore. "People have been making him an idol and a hero when he's hurt so many hard-working people, broken into homes, stolen property, ripped off businesses. It's pretty pitiful."

CNN's Joyce Joseph, Padma Rama, Susan Candiotti, Ross Levitt, Gabriel Falcon and Patrick Oppmann contributed to this report.