Police think man blew himself up; family calls him gentle, smart

Local police and FBI agents looked for answers -- and explosives -- in a Costa Mesa home Monday after 52-year-old Kevin Harris apparently blew himself up in a blast that shocked the quiet, suburban neighborhood where he lived alone.

His mother, Carol Harris, 82, said he had been diagnosed with a mental disorder, possibly schizophrenia.

She said that she hadn’t seen her son in three years and 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,” said Carol Harris, who lives in Carson, Nev.

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 of them all.

“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.”

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

Police said it appears Kevin Harris 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 haz-mat suits crept through the overgrown brush in the front yard 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.”

In the paper, the author -- who identified himself as Harris -- expressed 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 author claimed that the government was behind the killing of Nicole Brown Simpson and John Lennon, the Sept 11, 2001 terrorist attacks and the death of Righteous Brothers singer Bobby Hatfield.

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

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

David Rosendahl said he runs in the area regularly and first 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 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, 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,” it read. “I think it may be dangerous for you to come to my house alone.”

Times staff writer Kate Mather contributed to this report.

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