In a news release Monday morning, the Mendocino County Sheriff’s Office in California said Larson was court-martialed on Friday at Nellis Air Force Base in Nevada. But before he could be sentenced that day, Larson fled the court proceedings and deserted. A warrant was issued for his arrest.
On Saturday afternoon, a California Highway Patrol officer tried to stop Larson, who was driving a Jeep Wrangler south of Ukiah, California, the sheriff’s office said. Instead, a car chase ensued, heading north on Highway 101.
Larson turned onto Reeves Canyon Road in Redwood Valley, and the police lost sight of him. Agents from the Air Force Office of Special Investigations from nearby Beale Air Force Base were brought in and conducted overnight surveillance of the roadway’s intersection with the highway.
The airman was being temporarily held at Lackland while awaiting assignment to a permanent jail.
When day broke Sunday morning, OSI began searching Reeves Canyon Road and found Larson’s Jeep parked on a secluded fire trail road about eight miles from the highway, the sheriff’s office said. Deputies began working on a plan to approach Larson’s Jeep, but learned he had “communicated suicidal statements with a friend after his desertion,” the release said.
Because the situation was potentially dangerous, deputies brought in a drone, but it was unable to see inside the vehicle’s foggy windows at first and needed to be recharged. When it returned, its cameras captured an image of what was believed to be a person inside. Shortly afterward, a gunshot was heard in the area.
A SWAT team from Mendocino County was brought in using a citizen rescue vehicle, and found Larson’s body on a hillside about 30 yards from the vehicle. The initial investigation at the scene suggested Larson had killed himself with a high-powered rifle.
Larson was with the 867th Attack Squadron, part of the 432nd Wing at Creech Air Force Base in Nevada, 1st Lt. Scarlett Trujillo, a spokeswoman for the wing, said in an email. He was originally from Spokane, Washington, Trujillo said.
OSI is investigating Larson’s death, and his next of kin have been notified, Trujillo said. Assistance is being provided to those who need it at Larson’s home station, she said.
“I extend my deepest sympathies to Kevin’s friends and family as they come to terms with this loss,” Col. Stephen Jones, commander of the 432nd Wing and the 432nd Air Expeditionary Wing, said in the email. “His death was an unexpected tragedy. No matter what his situation or actions, he was a member of our Air Force family.”
Larson was court-martialed on charges including possession with intent to distribute drugs, distribution of drugs, wrongful use of drugs, making a false official statement, assault, fraternization, solicitation and conduct unbecoming an officer.
An autopsy has been scheduled for Wednesday.