Island County braces for possible return of Colton Harris-Moore
By JESSIE STENSLAND
Whidbey News Times Assistant editor
July 28, 2010 · Updated 9:20 AM
A small group of officials in Island County’s law and justice community recently got together to discuss how to handle a possible onslaught of media if and when Colton Harris-Moore arrives in Coupeville.
Island County Prosecutor Greg Banks said the infamous “barefoot bandit” should be headed to Island County after federal charges against him are resolved in federal court in Seattle.
“He has a lot to answer for in Island County,” Banks told county officials at a roundtable meeting Monday morning. “I think we are really next in line.”
But 19-year-old Harris-Moore could bring a media circus to little Coupeville, where Island County Superior Court is located. He’s wanted on a $500,000 arrest warrant out of Island County on 10 charges related to Camano Island burglaries, thefts, vandalism and a car chase. Banks said that other charges are pending; Harris-Moore is considered a suspect in the theft of an assault rifle from a police car parked in front of a home on Camano Island.
To brainstorm about the problems and solutions with the arrival of the barefoot burglar, Banks met with Sheriff Mark Brown, Coupeville Marshall Dave Penrod, Undersheriff Kelly Mauck, court administrator Mike Merringer and jail administrator De Dennis.
“We are concerned about a media frenzy when he shows up. We can’t plug up the courthouse,” Penrod said.
In addition, Brown said he’s concerned about the adequacy of space in the small courtrooms and parking around the county campus.
“If the news media gets here at 4 in the morning and takes up all the parking spaces, it could really be a problem,” the sheriff said.
Possible solutions discussed included a special media shuttle to and from off-site parking and a live video feed from the courtroom to another room where the media can watch.
Both Banks and Brown expressed frustration with television media following Harris-Moore’s capture in the Bahamas earlier this month. Banks didn’t mince words when he spoke with fellow officials at the Monday meeting.
“They could take up every hour of your day. They don’t care. They’re relentless,” he said, telling a story about a reporter who wouldn’t leave him alone while he was remodeling his home on vacation last week. He ultimately refused the on-camera interview.
But Banks said he had a better experience when he was interviewed for the “Today Show” and “Dateline.”
Brown refused an on-camera interview with “48 Hours” because he didn’t want to be a part of sensationalizing the barefoot-bandit story any more than it has been. He offered to do a phone interview, he said, but they wanted video of “someone in a uniform to validate the story.”
“There’s nothing I can add,” he said. “I’m sick of those kinds of questions and I don’t think they serve any purpose, especially now that he’s caught.”
Harris-Moore walked away from a halfway house in Renton in April 2008 and returned to Camano Island, where he allegedly perpetrated a string of burglaries. He moved on to other counties, and eventually other states, where his alleged crime spree included the theft of airplanes and boats. He was arrested in the Bahamas after he reportedly crash-landed a plane stolen July 4 from an Indiana airport.Contact Whidbey News Times Assistant editor Jessie Stensland at email@example.com or 360.675.6611 ext. 5056.