WILLITS, 1/23/20 — United States Air Force Captain Kevin A. Larson, 34 and originally of Spokane, WA, killed himself in Mendocino County Sunday Jan. 19, after fleeing a court martial conviction in Nevada, and evading local law enforcement, including the California Highway Patrol and the Mendocino County Sheriff’s Office. After a manhunt and brief stand-off, a single shot was heard and Mendocino SWAT found Larson’s body, dead from a single self-inflicted gunshot wound. Now some additional details about the circumstances surrounding the man’s suicide have emerged.
According to Air Force records and spokespeople, Larson was a drone pilot who had been most recently been stationed at Creech Air Force base near Las Vegas, NV. Creech specializes in maintaining and operating Air Force drones and Larson was certified on the MQ1 and MQ9 predator drones, which he piloted out of Creech. The exact nature of his missions is unknown.
Early in January Larson court-martialed at Nellis Air Force Base, also near Las Vegas, with the following violations of the Uniform Code of Military Justice: Article 107, Make false official statement; Article 112a, Possess Schedule I, II or III drugs; Article 112a, Possess with intent to distribute Schedule I, II or III drugs; Article 112a, Wrongful Use of Schedule I, II or III drugs; Article 112a, Distribution of Schedule I, II or III drugs; Article 128, Assault consummated by a battery; Article 133, Conduct unbecoming an officer and a gentleman; Article 134, Fraternization; Article 134, Solicitation.
Larson was tired and convicted on some of the charges earlier this month, and according to reporting from the military newspaper, Stars and Stripes, he was slated to be dismissed from the Air Force for his crimes. Extensive commentary on Air Force internet forums by people claiming to be acquaintances, and defending Larson, paint a picture of a worsening cycle of domestic problems which eventually led to the court martial — though statements are mixed with praise for his leadership within the Air Force from people saying they served under him.
On Friday, Jan. 17, Larson was due for a sentencing hearing, but instead fled to California, where on Saturday Jan. 18, he was stopped, then pursued by CHP officers south of Ukiah. It is unclear why he fled to California, though given that he was original from Washington, it may be possible that he was traveling home.
The following day an search was initiated in a remote area, in the hills west of U.S. Route 101 and north of Ukiah. Upon locating him law enforcement attempted contact, sending two small reconnaissance drones separately. After the second drone flew over Larson’s car a single shot was heard, at which point Mendocino SWAT was called in, who found him some yards behind his car, dead from a self-inflicted gunshot wound from a high powered rifle.
Here is a press release from the MCSO:
DATE: “January 20, 2020”
FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE:
8000 block of Reeves Canyon Road in Redwood Valley, CA
Date of Incident:
Kevin A. Larson (34 years-old male from Las Vegas, NV)
Captain Gregory L. Van Patten #1184
UPDATED PRESS RELEASE 01-20-2020:
On 01-20-2020 the Mendocino County Sheriff’s Office Coroner’s Division was able to contact the wanted service member’s legal next of kin and notify them of the his death.
The wanted service member’s identity is releasable to the public and he has been identified as Kevin A. Larson (34 year-old male from Las Vegas, Nevada).
ORIGINAL PRESS RELEASE 01-19-2020:
On 01-19-2020 at 7:30 AM, Deputies from the Mendocino County Sheriff’s Office were detailed to assist the United States Air Force in the 8000 block of Reeves Canyon Road in Redwood Valley, California.
Deputies contacted Air Force Special Agents from the Office of Special Investigations stationed at Beale Air Force Base near Marysville, California.
Deputies learned an Air Force service member (32 year-old male) had been the subject of a court-martial on 01-17-2020 at the Nellis Air Force Base in Las Vegas, Nevada.
Prior to being sentenced, that same day, the service member absconded from the court proceedings.
Based upon the desertion, an arrest warrant was issued for the service member.
On 01-18-2020 at approximately 4:00 PM an officer from the California Highway Patrol attempted a traffic stop on the wanted service member’s 2018 Jeep Wrangler south of Ukiah.
This attempted traffic stop resulted in a vehicular pursuit northbound on Highway 101 until the Jeep Wrangler turned onto Reeves Canyon Road, subsequently eluding apprehension.
The Air Force Special Agents were notified of the attempted apprehension and responded to Reeves Canyon Road where they conducted overnight surveillance of the roadway at the intersection of Highway 101.
Once daylight arose on 01-19-2020 the Air Force Special Agents began a search of Reeves Canyon Road in an attempt to locate the Jeep Wrangler.
This resulted in the discovery of the Jeep Wrangler parked on a secluded fire trail road in the 8000 block of Reeves Canyon Road (approximately 8 miles from intersection of Highway 101).
At this point, Deputies began to develop a plan to approach the Jeep Wrangler.
During this planning process, the Deputies learned the wanted service member had communicated suicidal statements with a friend after his desertion.
Because of the potentially dangerous circumstances, Deputies asked for the assistance of the Mendocino County Sheriff’s Office UAV (Unmanned Ariel Vehicle) which is used in connection with Search & Rescue operations.
The UAV was deployed and conducted an ariel viewing of the Jeep Wrangler but the operator was unable to see (with attached video transmitting camera) inside the vehicle as its windows were foggy. The UAV had to return to the staging area because the UAV’s battery was almost exhausted.
A short time later the UAV was redeployed and a further viewing of the Jeep Wrangler was conducted. This time there was an object, similar to a person, noted inside the vehicle.
Sometime thereafter a single shot from a firearm was heard in the immediate area and the UAV had to return to the staging area because the UAV’s battery was almost exhausted.
Based upon this new information, the Mendocino County Multi-Agency SWAT Team was requested.
On 01-19-2020 at approximately 1:30 PM the Multi-Agency SWAT Team used the CRV (Citizen Rescue Vehicle) to approach the Jeep Wrangler.
During this time, the wanted service member was located deceased approximately 30 yards away from the vehicle in an elevated position on the hillside adjacent to the vehicle.
Initial scene investigation suggested the wanted service member had committed suicide by use of a high powered rifle.
At this time the wanted service member is not being publicly identified pending notification of next of kin.
A forensic autopsy is scheduled for 01-22-2020 and there is no official manner or cause of death pending the results of the forensic autopsy.
All inquires in regards to the wanted service member are being referred to the United States Air Force Office of Special Investigations Public Affairs Officer Linda Card at 1-877-246-1453 or 571-305-8010.
The Mendocino County Sheriff’s Office would like to thank the following agencies for their assistance during this incident:
Mendocino County Search & Rescue, CalFire, Department of Fish & Wildlife, Ukiah Police Department, Willits Police Department, Fort Bragg Police Department, Medstar Ambulance, Redwood Valley Fire Department and Air Force Office of Special Investigations.
Captain Gregory L. Van Patten #1184