Who Is the Barefoot Bandit (AKA Colton Harris-Moore)

By: Alyssa Miller | Published: Jan 10, 2024

Modern-day folk heroes are rare. Stories about criminals who are on a mission to shake up the mundane world that’s turned its back on these individuals leave room for our imagination to wander, including Colton Harris-Moore, also known as the Barefoot Bandit.

From the wild goose chase that occupied much of Harris-Moore’s youth to Hollywood’s portrayal of the late 2000s chase, the Barefoot Bandit might be a folk hero worth noticing. Who is the Barefoot Bandit? Well, let’s get into it!

Who Is Colton Harris Moore? 

Born on March 22, 1991, in Mount Vernon, Washington, Colton Harris-Moore, popularly known as the Barefoot Bandit, became a media sensation after committing a series of crimes without wearing shoes. By the age of 7, Harris-Moore was running away from his unstable and abusive environment at home.

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A young Colton Harris-Moore posing for a soccer portrait

Source: Pam Kohler/CBS News

While he often spent his days in the nearby forests, Harris-Moore would break into vacation homes to steal food and various camping supplies.

Colton Harris Moore Learned How to Survive 

After dodging warrants for his arrest after failing to attend a mandatory court date, Harris-Moore set up hidden campsites in the Camano Island woods and continued burglarizing homes for food and supplies. When he broke into homes with computers, Harris-Moore would access them to learn how to steal identities, including order credit cards that he would use to purchase food and survival gear.

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Colton Harris Moore self-portrait during the early morning

Source: Island County Sheriff’s Office

His run lasted six months before he was captured. Facing 23 criminal charges, the adolescent pleaded guilty to three of the crimes and was sentenced to three years at the high-security juvenile detention facility, the Green Hill School.

Colton Harris Moore Becomes a Teenage Outlaw 

After an early release for good behavior, Harris-Moore was relocated to a place with better escape opportunities. On April 29, 2008, Harris-Moore slipped out of his new halfway house, and a felony warrant was issued for his arrest.

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Colton Harris-Moore mug shot

Source: Island County Sheriff’s Office

With a stolen car and a new campsite, Harris-Moore was back to his “normal” life. Authorities were eager to catch him and aggressively campaigned for his capture through the media. New stories began appearing about this mysterious teenage outlaw.

Colton Harris-Moore Becomes the Barefoot Bandit 

After Harris-Moore was identified as the person in photos taken on a digital camera found in a stolen black Mercedes, along with an assortment of stolen credit cards and cell phones, the authorities used the image to help the public identify the teenager, according to CNN.

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A July 2009 self-portrait by Colton Harris-Moore, provided to the news media by the Island County Sheriff’s Office

Source: Island County Sheriff’s Office

The laid-back selfie photo of the teen in the middle of the forest went viral online. A fanbase began following the details of the ongoing crime saga, dubbing the 17-year-old as the Barefoot Bandit since many of his crimes had been committed barefoot, sometimes even leaving dirty footprints behind.

The Barefoot Bandit Takes to the Sky

Harris-Moore dodged the authorities once again by moving to Orcas Island. In August 2008, the San Juan County Sheriff’s Office began receiving an increasing number of burglaries. By November 12, the pressure from the communities of Orcas Island led Harris-Moore to steal a Cessna 182, a single-engine airplane.

One of the planes Colton Harris-Moore crashed

Source: Trashsubhuman/Instagram

Surprisingly, Harris-Moore was able to successfully take off from the island and fly 300 miles east. He crash-landed the aircraft on the Yakama Indian Reservation and escaped before authorities could arrive to capture him. According to History Link, police found footprints inside the cockpit of the plane, confirming that Harris-Moore was a likely suspect.

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The Man, the Myth, the Legend 

The Cessna belonged to the popular KZOK-FM radio host Bob Rivers, who commented on the incident, telling listeners, “I don’t buy this folk-hero stuff … I was furious that something like this could happen. I really want him caught.” However, Harris-Moore becomes a bit of a folk hero despite this.

Colton Harris Moore Fan Club t-shirt

Source: Real Stories/YouTube

Harris-Moore stayed two steps ahead of the authorities. He broke into a patrol car on the morning of June 19, stealing a cell phone, an official-issue police rifle, and a supply of ammunition after returning to Camano Island. He also stole another plane from the San Juan Island public airport.

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What Happened to the Barefoot Bandit?

The cat-and-mouse game between Harris-Moore and the authorities lasted until the summer of 2010. Harris-Moore, now 19 years old, was facing off with the FBI. After making it to Illinois and stealing a plane on July 4, 2010, Harris-Moore was attempting to escape to Cuba, hoping the country’s lack of extradition treaties with the U.S. would save him.

Colton Harris Moore's Arrest in the Bahamas

Source: Real Stories/YouTube

Harris-Moore crash-landed in the Bahamas, where we survived for several days by stealing food from nearby stores and restaurants. In his final attempt to escape on a stolen boat, Bahamian police shot out the boat’s engine from the shore. He was quickly arrested and returned to the U.S.

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Is the Barefoot Bandit Still in Jail?

Harris-Moore was sentenced to six years in prison on January 27, 2012. Soon after reporting to prison, Harris-Moore sold the rights to his story to 20th Century Fox for $1.4 million, which all went toward restitution per the terms of his sentencing.

Colton Harris Moore in court

Source: Trashsubhuman/Instagram

While in prison, Harris-Moore’s mother was diagnosed with stage-four cancer and died shortly after. On September 2, 2016, Colton Harris-Moore was released from prison on probation and took a part-time job with John Henry Browne, the attorney who had represented him in court.

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Where Is the Barefoot Bandit Now? 

Colton Harris-Moore now resides in Settle, where his obsession with airplanes is still alive. While stealing five airplanes seemed to be enough for the now 32-year-old, Harris-Moore attempted to go to flight school. The dream was ultimately crushed when the court-ordered restitution notified him that he still owed his victims $129,000.

Caulk footprints on the floor with "C-YA" written by it

Source: Island County Sheriff’s Office

During an interview on KTTH 770 in Seattle in May 2019, Harris-Moore felt that “it’s gonna be difficult to have a normal life.” Colton Harris-Moore today remains reclusive, and his current whereabouts are unknown.

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Is There a Barefoot Bandit Movie?

After the rights to his story were sold, “The Barefoot Bandit Documentary” was released quite quickly. Directed by Carly Bodmer, the documentary chronicles the entire wild adventure Harris-Moore went through, including the five airplanes, three guns, 11 boats, and 14 cars he stole.

Colton Harris-Moore posing at a desk

Source: Colton Harris-Moore/GoFundMe

The documentary and countless YouTube videos and articles about Harris-Moore have solidified his folk-hero status, alongside others like Marvin Heemeyer and his Killdozer.

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Who Is Barefoot Billy?

While there have been no narrative films made about Harris-Moore’s life, his likeness has become the inspiration for some characters, including Barefoot Billy from Netflix’s “Maid.” While the series never shows us if Barefoot Billy is alive, there are many fan theories about the unseen character.

A fake news report of Barefoot Billy in Netflix's 'Maid'

Source: TM.24/YouTube

While Harris-Moore is the Barefoot Billy real-life inspiration, Harris-Moore will never see a penny of profit from his story. It is one tragedy after another for Harris-Moore, who seems to want a real normal life with his second chance.

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