Caught! The Barefoot Bandit

UPDATED 07/26/2010 at 01:00 AM EDT Originally published 07/26/2010 at 01:00 AM EDT

Colton Harris-Moore spent July 9 like most any teenage boy would-courting a pretty girl. In a restaurant in the Bahamas, he approached 18-year-old Tia Hardin, who was vacationing, and offered to buy her a drink. "I just thought he was a cool guy who liked to have adventures," Hardin tells PEOPLE. She's right about one thing: Harris-Moore, 19, known as the Barefoot Bandit for leaving footprints at crime scenes, has had his share of adventure.

For two years he eluded authorities-both police around Washington-State's Camano Island, where he grew up, as well as baffled officers in at least five other states. He allegedly swiped everything from a blueberry cheesecake to five small airplanes, becoming both reviled by his victims and lionized by fans who saw him as a Robin Hood. But his cat-and-mouse game has come to a dramatic end. Having bolted the woods, he hot-wired a single-engine Cessna in Indiana and flew 1,000 miles, crash-landing just off the Bahamas-an extraordinary feat when you consider he taught himself to fly. Like the rest of this caper, his arrest at dawn on July 11 was nothing short of cinematic: Police chased him through the black waters, shooting bullets into the engine of his stolen boat.

Harris-Moore faces charges in the Bahamas and will likely be extradited to the U.S., where he's a suspect in 65 cases. Even so, his mom, Pam Kohler, says, "I'm very happy he's safe." Twentieth Century Fox, which could adapt his story for the big screen, is likely pleased as well. But not Lisa Chapman Dennis, of Whitinsville, Mass., who was keen on the 6'5" bandit: "I hoped he could've made it a little bit longer."

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