Kevin Bobby Norton appeared to have been suicidal on Monday night. He was seen sitting in his Toyota Tundra pickup truck outside of Taylor’s Tavern Bar in Redwood Valley, the small town just north of Lake Mendocino and south of Willits in the inland valley of Mendocino County. Taylor’s Tavern is a small establishment in the rural area, nestled between an old feed and hardware store turned antique shop, and a veterinarian, pizza joint, and a small market. Norton was seen at 10:30 pm, and appeared to be holding a shotgun to his head.
The sheriff’s office was called, and deputies were in their way to the scene when the witnesses reported that the truck had left the parking lot, and had traveled to Highway 20 and then to northbound 101 towards Willits. He was described as white, with a shaved haircut, goatee, and hold a black shotgun. A “Be On The Lookout” alert was sent to local law enforcement, warning of the armed, possibly suicidal man driving in the area.
Norton was over halfway to Willits when a Highway Patrol officer spotted him near Black Bart Road and the White Deer Lodge motel. He pulled up alongside the truck to see if the driver was indeed the man described in the alert. But instead he heard a gunshot, and saw the Tundra’s driver side window explode. The truck continued as the 101 narrowed to a two lane highway, and reached the southern end of Willits, stopping at the gas station at Brown’s Corner. By then more CHP units, Willits Police, and Mendocino Sheriff’s deputies were on the scene as well.
The man left the truck, and they could see he was bleeding from his face and left cheek. While given first aid, the man was handcuffed and secured, and identified as 34-year-old Kevin Bobby Norton of Willits. They found a black sawed-off shotgun in the truck, along with a 9mm semi-automatic pistol. He was taken to Howard Memorial Hospital for treatment of his facial wounds.
In addition to the problems of possessing a sawed-off shotgun and shooting it from a vehicle, Norton was already a convicted felon and prohibited from possessing firearms. Norton had been charged with inflicting corporal injury on a spouse or co-habitant – domestic violence – in March of this year. In June he was charged with reckless driving, evading a peace officer, and resisting arrest.
His troubles can be traced back even further, however. An archived report in the Ukiah Daily Journal from 1998 tells of the then 18-year-old, together with a 17-year-old friend, stealing a Jeep Cherokee and crashing the car into a residential building, which caused a fire. The two teens then fled the scene. The building was destroyed, and two families were displaced. Both were soon captured and arrested on vehicle theft and arson.
In this incident, after treatment at the hospital, Norton was booked at the Mendocino County jail on Tuesday, November 18 on charges of possession of a sawed-off shotgun and firing from a vehicle, along with being a felon in possession of a firearm and a loaded firearm, carrying a concealed weapon, and for warrants and probation violations. His bail was set at $25,000.00.