Crime

‘Let Time Be On Our Side’: Mendocino County Sheriff Matt Kendall Talks Tactics Used to Apprehend the Redbearded Burglar During his Nine Months on the Lam

William Evers, aka the Redbearded Burglar, in his booking photo [All of the photographs of Evers provided by MCSO]

40-year-old William Evers, also known as the Redbearded Burglar, is finally out of the elements, high and dry behind the bars of the Mendocino County jail after spending nearly nine months on the lam in the wilds of Mendocino County.

Law enforcement’s hunt for Evers involved thousands of manhours, specialized surveillance equipment, the deployment of SWAT teams, and some well-publicized occasions where Evers gave pursuing deputies the slip.

Mendocino County Sheriff Matt Kendall

We spoke with Mendocino County Sheriff Matt Kendal to understand how investigators dealt with the elusive Evers and how their approach evolved as his modus operandi became clear.

Sheriff Kendall described the first significant breakthrough for his agency was comparing MCSO deputies’ first encounter with Evers to the second.

On that first evening, deputies responded to the 3000 block of Cameron Road after a homeowner reported an individual was burglarizing their residence. Deputies arrived, began to comb the area, and encountered Evers. Evers immediately fled on foot, deputies pursued, and after Evers said, “Leave me alone,” he fired upon one of the pursuing deputies.

Sheriff Kendall told us, “When he shot at the deputy, we pulled out the stops and started working him.”

When deputies next encountered Evers, an important distinction emerged: “during the second encounter with deputies, he did not go for a firearm.” This observation was coupled with intel detectives received from someone who knew Evers that he was not prone to violence. 

Sheriff Kendall said these discoveries led MCSO to believe that firing a gun at deputies was a “one-time thing. It was something he tried on for size but it did not fit him.”

When this characteristic of Evers finally materialized, Sheriff Kendall said his agency knew the serial burglar was not going to be “another Bassler situation.”

In the fall of 2011, a Mendocino County resident named Aaron James Bassler killed two men in the woods east of Fort Bragg and then eluded capture by law enforcement for 36 days until he was shot to death while gripping an assault rifle.

Sheriff Kendall said that Evers “never attacked a civilian” while living out in the woods. Though Evers had over a dozen felony burglaries, his behavior stood in stark contrast to Bassler’s clear tendency for violence. “Yes, Ever was stealing things, but things can be gotten back. People can’t,” Sheriff Kendall added. 

When MCSO Command Staff realized that Evers harnessed the flight over fight mode, they realized they could dial back the large-scale searches for Evers and “let time be on our side.”

Reflecting on the nine-month effort to apprehend Evers, Sheriff Kendall said, “if we were going to be ruthless, we would have caught him in 10 days. Five snipers, rotate them, but that would have been a homicide.”

Instead, the hunt for Evers became quiet relying on smaller, more mobile police searchers and various forms of surveillance technology, Sheriff Kendall explained.

Another staffing reality MCSO faced and continues to contend with is shortages of personnel. This led MCSO to rely heavily on electronic surveillance during the hunt for Evers, which Kendall said, “became a force multiplier.” Through the tedious and methodical review of the electronic surveillance, Sheriff Kendall told us, “When we first started, we knew he was in a 5-mile radius, shrunk it down to a 1-mile radius, [and] then a football field.

Through surveillance, MCSO determined that Evers had gotten hold of a mountain bike, and he was seen moving his camp piece-by-piece while riding the bike. Though efficient for movement, Ever’s choice of locomotion provided investigators with a boon of information to track down Evers. 

First, as Sheriff Kendall explained, riding a bike through the deer paths he had come to know in the woods was not possible. This led Evers to start navigating more open, noticeable thoroughfares to ride his bike from place to place. Second, mountain bike tracks are easily recognizable, and using the tracks investigators were able to start tracing Ever’s movements.

The bike, Sheriff Kendall said, was the beginning of Ever’s end, “We knew he would get sloppy and the bicycle was that something.”

MCSO navigated a hotbed of commentary throughout the search for Evers. Addressing critiques made by community members of deputies’ inability to catch Evers, Sheriff Kendall said the deputies are each outfitted with approximately 60 pounds of gear, limiting their mobility and ability to chase Evers through a terrain foreign to them while home to him.

Another complicating factor, Sheriff Kendall explained, when pursuing a person who has fired upon officers is law enforcement will always be concerned he will do so again. If pursuing officers lose sight of this subject they could theoretically turn around and fire upon officers gaining the advantage of cover.

Sheriff Kendall addressed claims from the public that the attempted murder charge Evers now faces is trumped up and MCSO is doing so to get even with Redbeard. Sheriff Kendall said, “We did not investigate the officer-involved shooting. The District Attorney’s Office brought the charges.” He explained that any and all officer-involved shootings are investigated by a separate entity, and in Mendocino County, that means the District Attorney

William Evers on the day he was arrested smiling the smile of all smiles [Picture from the MCSO Facebook page]

Another chapter in the lore of Redbeareded Burglar was written on Thursday, November 4, 2021, when MCSO posted a picture of Evers after he was apprehended. The picture portrays Evers, in the back of a patrol vehicle, hands cuffed behind his back, his legs wrapped, and smiling beatifically. The grin became a point of conversation for many, wondering if Evers was laughing at law enforcement, the system, the final end of a 9-month game of cops and robber that he had been the star of. Sheriff Kendall told us the morning he was apprehended, he requested from deputies on the scene a photograph of Evers. When the deputy went to take the picture, Sheriff Kendall said Evers was initially looked “kinda bummed out.” So, the deputy told Evers about a Halloween display from nearby that had portrayed him, including a pumpkin with a red beard. This loosened Evers up, and led to the second attempt at a photograph where he smiled the smile of all smiles.

Evers, the Redbeared Burglar, became somewhat of a folk hero as a result of the 9-month long chase. Sheriff Kendall said, “Everybody wants to be [for] the underdog until they are the victim.” Connecting the admiration of Evers to greater societal trends, Sheriff Kendall opined, “One of the strangest things going on nowadays is the victims of crime are ignored.” He went on saying “It’s easy for people to say things about Evers, right up to the point where they are the ones that get burglarized, one of the most invasive crimes where your home no longer feels safe.” Sheriff Kendall called on the public to not let his actions be seen as “honorable. He is a thief, that is what he is.”

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7 replies »

    • I don’t know enough about him to judge his mental state. However, the barefoot bandit is now an “influencer,” whatever that is and signed a 1*mil movie deal. Redbeard just needs the right PR people and he’ll be set.

  1. Dont worry nobody will ever address a mental health issue, remember the naked guy in ukiah, running down the street. the public wanted to make him out to be a george floyd .by saying the cops where cruel an mean. but just the opposite. they tried to help but the doctors keep cutting them loose. hold these doctors accountable!

  2. Good job MCSO !!! Sheriff Kendall is doing the best job that he can !! The POS BOS are the problem

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