Wanted Air Force serviceman found dead in Mendocino County

Las Vegas man believed to have shot himself

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A Las Vegas resident who was serving in the U.S. Air Force and facing court-martial at the Nellis Air Force Base in Nevada was found deceased in Redwood Valley Sunday, the Mendocino County Sheriff’s Office reported.

On Monday, the MCSO identified the man as Kevin A. Larson, 34. When asked if Larson had any known ties to the area, Capt. Greg Van Patten said his office was not aware of any, and that the assumption was he was driving to Washington State where his parents live.

According to the MCSO, deputies responded to the 800 block of Reeves Canyon Road around 7:30 a.m. Jan. 19 at the request of Air Force Special Agents from the Office of Special Investigations stationed at Beale Air Force Base near Marysville, Calif.

The Air Force Special Agents were searching for Larson, who fled the courtroom where he was expected to be sentenced after his court-martial in Las Vegas on Jan. 17. An arrest warrant was issued, and the following day around 4 p.m., a California Highway Patrol officer attempted a traffic stop on Larson’s 2018 Jeep Wrangler south of Ukiah.

Larson did not stop and the CHP officer pursued the Jeep onto Reeves Canyon Road, where the vehicle eluded the officer. The Air Force Special Agents then responded to the area and began searching, locating the vehicle parked on a secluded fire trail road in the 8000 block of Reeves Canyon Road, approximately eight miles from the intersection of Hwy. 101.

Due to a friend of Larson’s reporting that he made suicidal statements after his desertion, the MCSO first deployed its Unmanned Aerial Vehicle, or drone, to approach the vehicle. The drone was deployed and obtained footage of the Jeep, but “the windows were foggy” and nothing could be seen inside until the drone’s “battery was almost exhausted” and it had to be returned to deputies’ staging area.

When the drone was flown back to the vehicle, the operators could reportedly see what appeared to be a person inside the vehicle, then “sometime thereafter a single shot from a firearm was heard in the immediate area” and the drone had to return again to the staging area because its battery was nearly drained again.

At 1:30 p.m., the county’s Multi-Agency SWAT members then approached the Jeep using the Citizen Rescue Vehicle, and they found Larson dead approximately 30 yards away from the vehicle on a hillside. The initial investigation of the scene determined that Larson “committed suicide by use of a high powered rifle.” His name was not immediately released by the MCSO so his family could be notified.

A forensic autopsy is scheduled for Jan. 22, and the MCSO had not released an official manner or cause of death pending those results.

Several agencies assisted the MCSO, including the Mendocino County Search & Rescue, Cal Fire, Department of Fish & Wildlife, Ukiah Police Department, Willits Police Department, Fort Bragg Police Department,  Medstar Ambulance, Redwood Valley Fire Department and the Air Force Office of Special Investigations.

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