An Air Force officer and drone pilot who fled a court-martial sentencing this month at Nellis Air Force Base was found dead of an apparent suicide in California, authorities say.
Capt. Kevin Larson, 33, was convicted Jan. 17 by a Nellis jury on charges of drug possession, drug use, drug distribution, assault, false official statement and conduct unbecoming of an officer, according to officials at Creech Air Force Base in Indian Springs, where Larson was stationed.
But before he was sentenced to dismissal from the Air Force that day, Larson took off, and a warrant was issued for his arrest, Master Sgt. Dillon White said in a statement.
On Jan. 18, nearly 700 miles from Las Vegas, the California Highway Patrol attempted to stop Larson’s 2018 Jeep Wrangler on U.S. Highway 101, but he evaded authorities, the Mendocino County Sheriff’s Office said in a news release.
The next morning, Larson’s Jeep was found on a secluded fire trail road west of Redwood Valley. While Air Force special agents prepared to move in, they learned that Larson had communicated suicidal statements to a friend after his desertion, and they decided against approaching him, deputies said.
Instead, the Sheriff’s Office dispatched a drone to get a better look at the Jeep, but before deputies got a fix on Larson they heard a gunshot. The SWAT team was called and found Larson dead on a hillside 30 yards from the Jeep from a single shot from a high-power rifle, according to the news release.
Air Force officials said Larson, originally from Spokane, Washington, entered active duty April 2, 2012. He was promoted to captain on Feb. 16, 2016.
He had been awarded the Air Achievement Medal and piloted MQ-1 Predator drones from 2013 to 2015 and MQ-9 Reaper drones beginning in 2015.
“I extend my deepest sympathies to Kevin’s friends and family as they come to terms with this loss,” Col. Stephen Jones, 432nd Wing/432nd Air Expeditionary Wing commander, said in a statement. “His death was an unexpected tragedy. No matter what his situation or actions, he was a member of our Air Force family.”
Attempts to reach Larson’s family members for comment on this story were unsuccessful.
The Mendocino County coroner had not released Larson’s cause and manner of death as of Monday afternoon.
Suicide warning signs
Signs of suicide can include changes in conversation, behavior and mood, according to the American Association of Suicidology.
If a person talks about being a burden to others and feeling trapped; if a person starts acting recklessly or withdrawing from friends, family and activities; if a person starts experiencing rage, anxiety or a loss of interest — among other factors — reach out to the person or seek help.
For more information, visit suicidology.org/resources/warning-signs.
The National Suicide Prevention Lifeline, 1-800-273-8522, provides access to trained telephone counselors, 24/7.