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I Caught the Barefoot Bandit

The fugitive 19-year-old who spent two years escaping from the FBI in cars, boats and planes.
Jamie Clifton
London, GB

Two years ago, the "Barefoot Bandit", AKA 19-year-old fugitive Colton Harris-Moore, was caught in the Bahamas after spending two years stealing cars, boats and planes and burgling hundreds of houses while evading capture by the top security officials the US could muster. A lot of people were upset when Colton was caught because he'd had a difficult upbringing, plus, unless they're a murderer, rapist or paedophile, it's always kind of fun to watch someone make the police look like clueless idiots. The main image circulated of Colton was his now infamous MySpace-style self-portrait, where he looks like your next-door neighbour's simple kid brother on a camping trip. You have to be a real asshole to publicly hate on a teenager having fun in the woods.


Unfortunately, stealing millions of dollars of other people's stuff does usually mean that the authorities will do their best to catch up with you and lock you away for a very long time. In this case, it wasn't the police that first apprehended Harris-Moore (LOL, U MAD BROS?) but Kenny Strachan, a security guard at the Romora Bay resort, where the bandit made his last stop off before getting his boat motor shot out by police and sticking a gun to his head. While I was out in Harbour Island this summer, having a Big Night Out and hassling people about their weird golf carts, I ended up drinking with Kenny and listening to his story.   Dustin Lance Black, the guy who wrote Milk and J. Edgar – i.e. the guy to call if you want to turn a true story into a Hollywood cash cow – has apparently just finished writing the screenplay for an upcoming movie based on Colton's life, so I thought I should write down what Kenny was telling me and completely spoil the the end of the movie for all of you.

Kenny standing at the spot where he first ran into the "Barefoot Bandit". VICE: Hey, Kenny. Take me through what happened on the night you caught the Barefoot Bandit.
Kenny Strachan: Well, on July 10th at 12.45AM, I was standing here and I saw this little 10ft Boston Whaler boat coming into the marina. I had a look to see what it was all about, and I saw this little skinny guy running and jumping on to the dock, then up on to the land and straight into me. He said, "They're trying to kill me," so I said I'd help him. He spoke to me for about 15 seconds, then he jumped across some bushes and ran into the street. He had a pistol in his hand, so I ran behind him at some distance because I didn't know whether he was gonna turn back on me with the gun. Did you feel threatened?
He was alright, but he was clearly on the run from something, you know? So, yeah, I was wary of him because he could have shot me at any minute. I was in security clothes and he didn't know whether I had a concealed weapon on me, so if the slightest thing went wrong, or if I had acted differently to the way I did, he could have taken a shot at me. What happened when you were following him?
Well, he kept running, then he jumped into a bush and he stayed in there for more than two and a half hours. The police got here about 15 minutes after I made the call and quarantined the whole dock area. The Bandit got himself through the bushes and back down to the boat area. There was a boat tied up to the tip of the dock, he stole that boat, then he took off again. Is that when the police gave chase?
Yeah, he got the boat going, then he ran aground on a sandbar just round the corner from here. That was when he got captured. The police requested the use of a boat that was docked here called Picasso – a big yacht – and the boat's crew helped the police get right up behind the bandit after he ran aground. That's when they shot his engine out and he started threatening to shoot himself in the head. None of that would have happened if I didn't make the call. So the capture is basically all down to you?
Exactly. It all started when I made the phone call to my manager and then she told everyone, and the whole island came over here. Yeah, I remember. I was out here that year at one of the clubs when the news came through and everyone started racing off to try to catch him so they could get the reward money.
Yeah, we had everyone down here trying to find him. That was all going on when he was hidden in the bushes, though. I suppose he got pretty good at hiding from people after being chased by the law for two years. What did you do with your reward money?
I took it to the US embassy and got granted a visa, then travelled to visit my family in New York city after some 23 years of not seeing them. It's funny to think that stopping a guy and making a phone call let me do all that.      Romora Bay started selling the Barefoot Bandit Cocktail the day after he got caught.
It tasted like rum punch poured over the crushed dreams of a troubled child. Did you recognise him from the TV when you first stopped him?
Yeah, we actually had a photo of him on the dock at the time. He's an unusual looking guy and he was holding a gun, so I knew who he was as soon as I seen him run up here. How did you feel apprehending him after knowing his back story?
I felt more sorry for the kid than anything. I'm just glad he didn't get hurt. Through those two years of crime, he didn't harm no one. In some countries, as soon as police see you've got a weapon, they're gonna shoot you, so I'm glad that didn't happen to him. Do you think his seven-year sentence is fair?
I suppose it's fair, but I thought they would give him less than that. I mean, he wasn't a violent criminal at all, he was just a white-collar criminal. You know, stealing airplanes and boats and breaking into houses. And when he stole, he was just stealing to eat, he wasn't going round, lavishly destroying everything for the sake of it. He was just a kid trying to survive, and he didn't hurt nobody. The front of this T-shirt reads; "Romora Bay, where everyone is welcome." And he used to leave his spare cash behind at places that needed it sometimes, too.
Yes, he did. I think that just aggravated the law enforcement more, to be honest. That, and the fact that he always left the outline of his feet at his crime scenes, which must have annoyed the people trying to catch him. He had to come to the Bahamas to get caught, though. He had to come here to get caught by me. I led the capture. Are you bored of talking about it now? Or is it something you're still proud of?
No, I don't mind talking about it. I feel sorry for the kid, but he broke he law and he had to get caught somewhere, you know? It just happened that I caught him, then I ended up being interviewed by everyone – NBC, ABC, the BBC – all of them. There's a Canadian film crew here at the moment doing a reenactment. I like them the best. They spoke to me for four hours to get the story exact, and they've brought over this actor to film it all who's a spitting image of the guy. Are you looking forward to seeing the movie about Colton's life?
Yeah, I'm looking forward to seeing it. I'm looking forward to some good recognition for me as well. I don't know if they're going to use me as a main part, but I'm looking forward to it, sure. Who do you think would play you best?
I guess the guy who looks most like me is Denzel Washington. Denzel's got high cheekbones like me, so he has to be the man for the part.


Follow Jamie on Twitter: @jamie_clifton

More exotic holiday fun with Jamie:

The Fabulous Customised Golf Carts of the Bahamas

I Was An Accidental Nigerian Film Star

Magic Mushroom Milkshake Island