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Costa Mesa man blew himself up, police believe

Kevin Harris died in 'a pretty powerful explosion' at his home, which was wrapped in foil. Family members describe him as brilliant and gentle. An essay in his name expresses fear of the government.

April 15, 2013|By Lauren Williams and Joseph Serna, Los Angeles Times
  • Investigators wearing hazmat suits approach the Costa Mesa home of Kevin Harris, who died in an explosion there.
Investigators wearing hazmat suits approach the Costa Mesa home of Kevin… (Mark Boster, Los Angeles…)

Local police and FBI agents looked for answers — and explosives — in a Costa Mesa home Monday after a man apparently blew himself up in a blast that shocked the quiet, suburban neighborhood where he lived alone.

Authorities who searched the scene said they found at least two explosive devices in the modest one-story home and detonated them, and they later discovered a rambling and worrisome 17,000-word essay online expressing a deep fear of government.

Police said it appears Kevin Harris, 52, intended to kill himself in the Sunday night explosion, which neighbors said sounded like a car crash or a garbage can tipping over.

Many of the homes in the neighborhood remained empty Monday as police patrolled the streets south of the 405 Freeway near Harbor Boulevard and investigators in white hazmat suits crept through the overgrown brush in the frontyard of the Bermuda Drive home.

Neighbors said Harris seemed odd yet harmless, though several said they tended to quicken their pace when they passed his home.

The essay, titled "The Pricker: A True Story of Assassination, Terrorism and High Treason," includes references to aliens, the O.J. Simpson trial, the U.S. government and "the pricker," which it describes as "an assassin's weapon that deposits biological agents into a victim's skin, on contact, without their knowledge."

Throughout the paper, the author — identifying himself as Harris — expresses belief that the U.S. government and its allies control the flow of information to the public and assassinate dissenters through freak accidents and diseases such as cancer and AIDS.

The essay claimed that the government was behind the killings of Nicole Brown Simpson and John Lennon, the Sept. 11, 2001 terrorist attacks and the death of Righteous Brothers singer Bobby Hatfield.

Family members described Harris as a brilliant and gentle person who had never expressed an interest in explosives or weaponry.

Carol Harris, his 82-year-old mother, said he had been diagnosed with a mental disorder, possibly schizophrenia.

She said that she hadn't seen her son in three years. She lives in Nevada and said that the last time they spoke, he told her was disconnecting his phone because he was getting unwanted calls. She said he didn't work and refused to let anyone enter his home.

"He was a very gentle person," she said.

Mark Harris, 57, said his brother was the youngest of five boys, and although the others were smart and high achieving — one is a professor, another a pharmacist — Kevin was the smartest.

"For us it's very troubling that he ended this way," Mark Harris said. "How he got off on his ideas on what you might call conspiracy theories … it's always been troubling to anybody who knows him because he's so smart."

Kevin Harris' home, practically hidden behind tall bushes and trees, was wrapped in foil, and when authorities entered, it was hard to see because all the windows had been covered, police said.

Harris posted messages on a tree on the edge of his yard, neighbors said. Sometimes the essay was there; other times there were cryptic notes.

David Rosendahl said he runs in the area regularly and started noticing odd notes posted to the tree about four or five months ago. He snapped a photo of the latest note Saturday morning.

"For your information: My introspection and my adversaries behavior have convinced me that electronic mind reading is now a reality," it read.

At other times, Rosendahl said, there was a clipboard and pen attached to the tree with papers allowing room for names, addresses and signatures — similar to voting logs, he said.

Doug and Jenny Nadasdy, who have lived in the neighborhood for years, said they saw Harris minutes before he died. Doug Nadasdy said he nodded at Harris and Harris nodded back, but that was the extent of their exchange.

On Sunday night, Harris was seen lying in his front yard. He refused medical attention when paramedics arrived.

A short time later, the explosion rocked the neighborhood, and police found Harris' body in the front doorway.

"It was a pretty powerful explosion," Costa Mesa Police Lt. Greg Scott said.

The online essay warned of dangers inside the home.

"I am at 3152 Bermuda Dr., Costa Mesa, CA, USA. You can tell it's me because I am the only one who can get into my house," the document read. "I think it may be dangerous for you to come to my house alone."

lauren.williams@latimes.com

joseph.serna@latimes.com

Times staff writer Kate Mather contributed to this report.

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