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Break-in, airplane theft could be linked to 'Barefoot Burglar' Colton Harris-Moore

The plane found abandoned at the Eastsound airport on Feb. 11 - Merrick Parnell photos
The plane found abandoned at the Eastsound airport on Feb. 11
— image credit: Merrick Parnell photos

An airplane theft and a break-in at an Eastsound business could be linked to alleged serial burglar Colton Harris-Moore, authorities say.

On the morning of Feb. 11, an airplane taken from Skagit County was found abandoned at the Eastsound airport, and Kyle Ater, owner of Orcas Homegrown Market and Gourmet Delicatessen, walked into a nightmare: the store was broken into, vandalized, and sustained damage to internal security systems.

“I walked in the back door at 8:15 a.m. There were these huge footprints drawn on the floor. My first reaction was that it was a joke,” Ater said. “Then I see the cash drawers on the floor. And the security system was in the sink with the water running. I took the hard drive out and dried it out. That was my first priority.”

Ater says the central server in the upstairs office had been demolished as well.

“If it is the Barefoot Bandit, I think it's a direct message to me,” he said. “The only reason I bought that system is because I stayed there so many nights last summer. It's given me peace of mind up until now. The security system was the target. He tried to destroy it but I've still got the hard drive.”

Around $1200 was taken from the cash register as well as organic produce, an organic blueberry cheesecake, and a tray of unbaked croissants stuffed with meat and cheese. The store sustained more than $5,000 of damage.

“I feel violated,” Ater says. “I've been trying to handle this media wave and actually help Orcas Island. I feel it's important to mention Orcas and let people know there's an island here.”

Ater is hopeful the FBI will be able to release footage from the salvaged hard drive.

“I'd like to know who robbed my store,” he said.

While the physical evidence hasn’t been connected to Harris-Moore, the Northwest’s notorious teen bandit, the pattern is familiar: steal a plane and break into a business. San Juan County Sheriff Bill Cumming said it is “presumptive but we feel probably accurate” that Harris-Moore is the suspect.

“This young man’s activities have elevated beyond San Juan County, so we have state and federal assistance we are coordinating with,” Cumming said. “We do not have a physical link, but we have a strong similarity in the pattern of the events.”

On Feb. 12, rumors circulated that Harris-Moore was captured by the U.S. Coast Guard.

Coast Guard Chief Paul Roszkowski dispelled the false report. He said that besides maintaining a regular presence in the region’s waters, Coast Guard personnel are boarding recreational vessels and doing marina walks as part of border security for the Olympics.

“We have not heard of any apprehension or any other involvement by the Coast Guard,” Roszkowski said

Harris-Moore, 18, of Camano Island, has been called the Barefoot Burglar because he is believed to have been barefoot during most of the crimes. He is wanted in connection with an Aug. 28 burglary at Deer Harbor Marina; the September burglaries of Sunflower Cafe, Vern’s Bayside, Bilbo’s, Islanders Bank, Ace Hardware, and Island Market; the theft of two boats on Orcas Island; and the theft of a plane from Friday Harbor that was later hard-landed at the Port of Orcas.

On Sept. 12, the suspect ran from deputies in Eastsound after he was spotted.

Harris-Moore is also wanted in connection with an August 2008 burglary and theft at Vern’s Bayside, and the theft of a plane from a Port of Orcas hangar the same day. He is also a suspect in a residential burglary committed in September 2008.

According to Cumming, Harris-Moore has been connected to 20 to 30 burglaries in Island County.

Cumming could only speculate as to how a 6-foot, 5-inch, 205-pound fugitive could be so elusive.

“He’s young, he’s 18 years old, he’s athletic and fleet of foot,” Cumming said.

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