Published April 07, 2010
Suspected thief has been transformed into a cult hero by someTHE OLYMPIAN
There is nothing special about Colton Harris-Moore, really. He’s just another criminal with a fan club. Neither the biggest nor even the brightest such criminal, Harris-Moore is simply the most current, or the most local, and this seems to be enough to have secured him statewide notoriety. Perhaps you’ve heard of Harris-Moore. When the media report on him, they tend to use the all but affectionate nickname, “The Barefoot Bandit,” because of his apparent lack of footwear during early alleged crimes, and this was the name employed by my teenage cousin when she told me his story last week, with an alarming twinkle in her eye. After running away from a Renton juvenile detention facility in 2008, the then 17-year-old allegedly began a two-years-and-counting crime spree involving the theft (and subsequent crash-landing) of a few airplanes, as well as break-ins and petty burglaries throughout the Northwest. The catch is that far from denouncing his acts, a startling number of locals are praising them. T-shirts with the shoeless fugitive’s face on them are selling like hotcakes, castings of his footprints were listed last week on eBay for $300, and just one of his four or so Facebook fan pages has close to 25,000 fans. The creator of this largest Facebook page epitomized this trend of outlaw veneration when, in an interview with ABC News, he described Harris-Moore as “a brilliant person.” I am at a loss to explain just what it is Harris-Moore might have done to deserve such a superlative. I know plenty of kids who, if they allowed themselves the luxury of dropping out of high school, would have plenty of time to visit the library and read a few books about flying an aircraft. However, Harris-Moore’s library must have closed before he reached the chapter about returning to the ground, since investigators suspect him in the crash landing of at least four stolen planes. DNA tests of the vomit sprayed all over inside one cockpit were inconclusive because of excessive stomach acid. More evidence of Harris-Moore’s brilliance lies in the way he has reportedly been living for more than a year somewhere in the woods of Western Washington, which are renowned worldwide for their balmy comfort. Also, kudos to him for successfully avoiding stepping on any sharp, rusty nails with those infamously bare feet. These triumphs are undoubtedly the product of an IQ that is, Harris-Moore’s mother reminded one reporter, “three points below Einstein’s.” In all sincerity, I am baffled. I will never forget the day I was in seventh grade and our house was robbed. You remember odd things. The angle of the door, still ajar. The amount of junk you had stuffed onto that big shelf in the den, how it never seemed like so much until it was all strewn about the floor. The hammer on the cold ground outside your bedroom window. And that unshakable disquiet, that shiver of doubt that you are really safe anymore. Somewhere in the mad sycophantic frenzy surrounding Harris-Moore, certain people have forgotten that we all hate a criminal. We despise anyone violating the sanctity and security of our own private home, stealing our sentimental treasures and our valuable gadgets alike, everything being equal fodder at a pawn shop. I think the force which draws fans to Harris-Moore is the same force which draws followers to that archetypal big, rude kid in high school. Someone who is foul by your own sense of right and wrong can appear attractive as long as their beam of cruelty isn’t directed at you. But of course, that beam is always moving, isn’t it? Emerson Hardebeck, junior class president at Timberline High School and an editor of Timberline’s student newspaper “The Blazer,” is a member of The Olympian’s Board of Contributors. He can be reached at email@example.com.