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Meeting, Kind of, the Famous Mr. Redbeard

Finally, more than an hour after my arrival, I first set eyes on William Allan ‘Redbeard’ Evers, accused burglar additionally charged with the attempted murder of a peace officer. Shackled and wearing a chartreuse jail jumpsuit and an orange undershirt, he looked like a classics professor I had in college. Clear-eyed, tall, and lean, he glowed with good health. It struck me that a health-minded entrepreneur could make millions using him as the model for promoting a lifestyle of living in the woods, hiking eight hours a day, and eating out of vegetable gardens.

Redbeard smiled with perfect, startlingly white teeth when he introduced himself. When I asked him what I should call him he replied “William or Redbeard,” the latter written as one word. So Redbeard it is. And for the record, his beard isn’t really red, at least it wasn’t in the dim yellowish light of the jail’s no-contact visiting room. 

Much has been written about the elusive Redbeard, including in this newspaper, so I’ll be brief. He turned 40 last March, grew up in Redding with his parents and younger brother, liked school, attended some college, served time for burglary in Humboldt County, arrived in Ukiah around a year ago and survived alone in the remote woods of Mendocino County until county detectives arrested him shortly before noon on November 4 near Albion Ridge Road in Albion following a short foot chase. His next court appearance will be for a preliminary hearing on December 7. More on his bail later.

So how did Redbeard survive nearly a year living rough in the woods?

“I was cold all the time,” he said. He said he had a radio, but that he only listened to it infrequently when he was sure he wouldn’t be overheard. Ditto for talking to himself. Feeding himself was often daunting. “I foraged for food, and didn’t have to kill any animals,” he said, though over that time he said he did kill one turkey and a quail with a slingshot. “I ate a lot of different mushrooms and especially liked the chanterelles.” 

A plant website describes Golden Pacific chanterelles as “one of the best wild edible mushrooms in the Pacific Northwest.” He said that what he couldn’t forage in the woods he took from unoccupied coastal homes and their vegetable gardens. (As an aside, lists the median price of a home in Albion as $1,247,500.) “I basically just took what I needed,” he said. “I especially love pumpkin, all other kinds of squash, cabbage, green beans, and onions.” When surprised by a resident in a vegetable garden, his pockets “stuffed with beets and onions,” the resident reportedly said that he never felt threatened by Redbeard and “would have given him the food if he hadn’t stolen it.” 

Redbeard told me that he carried all of this in his backpack, in addition to “a sleeping bag, a nylon jacket, a leather mitt and a cooking pot.” He never had a phone. “I didn’t want to involve others,” he said, “and I didn’t know what to say to them” [family and friends]. He never had a dog, explaining that he feared he wouldn’t be able to adequately feed them both, and was constantly on the move. “I walked through three pairs of shoes,” he said. 

This is neither the time nor the place to argue the specifics of Redbeard’s case, though something must be said about the mind-blowing $2.5 million bail levied by the district attorney. According to Mendocino County’s own posted felony bail schedule, assault with a deadly weapon on a peace officer lists bail at $50,000; attempted murder in the first lists $250,000, and murder in the second $125,000. Burglary of a residence lists bail at $50,000. It can only be assumed that the preposterous $2.5 million bail is law enforcement’s pound of flesh for embarrassing them by eluding SWAT teams and dozens of deputies who couldn’t catch this low-key survivalist for nearly a year.

In 2014 voters in California overwhelmingly passed (59.61% to 40.39%) Proposition 47, which “classified certain crimes as misdemeanors instead of felonies unless the defendant has prior convictions for murder, rape, certain sex offenses or certain gun crimes.” Burglary was one such reclassified crime. As for the attempted murder charge, nobody was hit, and when one enterprising local reporter requested footage from the body-cameras worn by deputies pursuing Redbeard back in May, when the alleged attempted murder took place, the reporter wrote that he was told the footage didn’t exist. So absent any physical evidence or any witnesses (at least as publicly disclosed so far) other than Redbeard himself or the pursuing deputies, who really knows who shot first, and at whom?

In America, property rights reign supreme. Stealing is stealing, though California distinguishes between stolen goods valued at less than or greater than $950. A man’s home is his castle, so goes the slogan. Even if you’re poor and have to eat to survive, stealing food is a crime, one that landowners and the police of yore have grappled with since time immemorial. In medieval times a spike could be driven through a thief’s tongue for stealing food. But even poets have addressed theft in the face of “the sharp tooth of hunger” through the ages, including Johann Wolfgang von Goethe, who wrote on the cusp of the nineteenth century:

Th’ almighty power of hunger was the cause,

Which owns no master, and obeys no laws.

Those tempted to fall back on the “law and order” plank buried deep in the law-and-order firmament of American exceptionalism and its Trumpian adherents might do well to consider a more contemporary example when considering punishment for the poor who steal food to survive.

Five years ago Italy’s highest court of appeals ruled that stealing small amounts of food to stave off hunger is not a crime. An op-ed following the ruling stated that “In times of economic hardship…the court “reminds everyone that in a civilized country not even the worst of men should starve.” The ruling derives from a concept that “informed the Western world for centuries – it is called humanity.”

Getting in to see Mr. Evers was not easy. I had arrived a half-hour early for my 1:30 scheduled interview with William ‘Redbeard’ Evers at the county jail on Low Gap Road in Ukiah. I’d arranged the interview with the help of the sheriff’s public-information officers, who have been unfailingly respectful and helpful in paving my way for past interviews in and around the jail complex. I didn’t expect to even mention the jail when I set out to do this story.

My troubles trying to meet Redbeard began at the main entrance front door. The locked doors bore a sign reading “We Are Open,” and instructed the reader to push the doorbell. Which I did, once, twice, and thrice before a cheery voice finally picked up. After stating my business she said, “You’re in the wrong place. You have to go to the night entrance door. Someone will help you there.”

“No problem,” I said, noting the night entrance on the far side of the building. The narrow room contained a locked door, a reinforced window, and two phones: tan and black. The wall-mounted instructions were to pick up the tan phone and wait until someone got on the line. For 15 minutes I picked up the phone, getting nothing but empty air for my trouble. I walked over to the black phone on the facing wall and picked up the receiver. The corrections officer who answered told me that he was in the communications center and couldn’t help me. So I fell back on the “pick up the tan receiver and someone will answer” maneuver again, with the same dead-air result. By this time, I was officially late for my scheduled interview. I left tan-phone and went back to black-phone, where I practically begged the guy in the communications center to help me. He relented and gave me a different number. 

When I called this latest number a pleasant young woman asked me to please hold on. Which I did, for another five minutes. She came back to me and asked “Are you still there?” I assured her I was, and she told me to go back to the front door and “someone will get you.” By now I was 45 minutes late for my interview.

I’m not much of a conspiracy theorist but it finally dawned on me that something was rotten in Denmark. When the sergeant I had been seeking finally walked up behind me I asked him if these numerous delays were some kind of payback against the inmate, who had embarrassingly eluded law enforcement for nearly a year. “I didn’t know you were here,” he replied with a straight face. After my dozens of calls at multiple numbers I found this hard to believe but held my tongue. In this life it’s important to recognize when you’re powerless. 

As I followed him down the rise to the jail building I asked him what room I’d be doing my interview in. “I don’t know anything about a room for an interview,” he said. 

“But but but — I went through this when I set it up,” I said. “The acoustics are awful and it’s hard to take pictures through the glass.” He said it was out of the question, that Redbeard could “take me hostage” and corrections officers would have to “go in and rescue you.” 

Really? Taken hostage by a shackled, unarmed inmate in a jail filled with locked rooms? I told him I would take full responsibility and sign a waiver absolving the county of any and all liability if Redbeard attacked me or took me hostage. 

No dice. Not even any wiggle room. So it was down to the interview dungeon, where you sit behind thick glass. Two old-timey black phone receivers supposedly allow inmate and visitor to clearly communicate on opposite sides of the glass. 

The next problem was that nobody could figure out how to connect the phones.  Worse, the volume button was either broken or disabled. Geeez Louise, what next? My hearing isn’t the greatest but with my hearing aids I do fine. I explained to the corrections officers that it was critical that I hear every word and asked if Redbeard could call me on my Smartphone, which I held up to show that they could prove that it was me Redbeard was calling. 

No cell phones allowed. Period. So in this rinky-dink auditory environment Redbeard and I cobbled together a conversation of sorts by near-shouting and holding paper-and-pen messages up to the glass.  


  1. Critical thinker November 19, 2021

    Great work & much applause to you for reporting this. After making such a big deal in the media about this man IT SEEMS THEY THINK THE PUBLIC IS SUPPOSED TO HEAR NOTHING MORE REGARDING HIS PROSECUTION OR LACK THERE OF.
    I would bet my life that he is found not guilty of the attempt on a deputies life or that the charge will be dropped at some point. No camera footage from body cams or even dash cams just screams that something is off…way off. One has to wonder about those photos of him carrying a side arm as well. To me they appear to be doctored photos.
    I’d like to hear from the persons (while under oath) who’s cameras took the images. Hope he doesn’t end up suing the county over what may be false accusations & or false evidence. These are simply my opinions & I’m not an expert but I trust no persons word more or less than anothers. Law officers have lied to my face many many times by the way.

  2. Professor Cosmos November 19, 2021

    When I read the Sheriff’s characterization of that one-shot incident, and his assessment that he was someone with no interest in harming anyone, I figured that the attempted murder count likely would not survive in the end.

    It would be great to learn what grabs his interest and to see what vocation he would love, or at least tolerate with comfort and ease.

    The current dystopian conditions, based on things like treating housing property as a commodity and not as shelter, will inevitably have to be addressed (presumably when the suffering becomes so acute that enough of the voting population comes to their senses).

  3. Marmon November 19, 2021


    “Those tempted to fall back on the “law and order” plank buried deep in the law-and-order firmament of American exceptionalism and its Trumpian adherents might do well to consider a more contemporary example when considering punishment for the poor who steal food to survive.”

    Ms Davin couldn’t even write a good local story without going after Trump and his supporters. Trump Derangement Syndrome (TDS) at its worst. Seek help Ms Davin.


    • Harvey Reading November 19, 2021

      YOU are the one with trump derangement syndrome.

  4. Jim Armstrong November 19, 2021

    Very good and welcome report.
    Funny how almost everyone thinks that the man’s worst crime was embarrassing cops.
    One would think that they would avoid compounding the mistake by treating a reporter with courtesy and honesty.

  5. Outdoor living November 19, 2021

    Do any of you even own property in Albion?
    Also what does property prices have to do with someone stealing food!
    There is so much free food to be had for the asking!
    I suggest if you think this person is not guilty of Anything pay for a lawyer and give him money support him.
    This is not a political issue this is some who thinks he can take from others with out asking. Bite the hand that would feed you thinking if you ask me.

    I am very interested in the outcome,I am not say he did or did not shot at a person. That is for the courts to decide not anyone else!
    A lot of people who live in Albion because they do live off the land!
    Also, Neighbors helping neighbors they do not steal from them.

  6. izzy November 19, 2021

    Sounds like most interactions with officialdom lately.
    Make it all impossibly hard, and maybe they’ll just go away.
    It surely must be a budget problem.

  7. Fb November 20, 2021

    What a joke article.

    Don’t defend someone for stealing. He could of walked out of those woods and went to many of places that provided free food. This is California there are numerous programs. Just need to ask.

    • Douglas Coulter November 22, 2021

      Humbug! “Are there no work houses, are there no prisons”?
      Many stand in judgement of the homeless who have never slept under a trestle or spent the night in the Hostility House, the local homeless shelter. I find a tent in the woods to be far less dangerous than government provided protection. How about allowing alternatives to life on the dole among professional leaches. I would like to see photos of Redbeards campsites. I would bet they are clean. Unlike the camps that litter every city the homeless are cramped in.
      I do not justify theft but that is a minor crime, I never read any reports of vandalism by Redbeard but I do understand the draw of deep woods homeless life.
      Abraham Lincoln hanged 38 Sioux without trial for stealing food because the government agents charged with their care was starving them on reservations.

  8. Truth matters November 20, 2021

    You may want to rewrite the story and make redbeard into a benign robinhood but that is bad reporting on your part. Did you interview the property owners of homes he broke into? Evidently not. There was a lot more to the story then stealing beets and onions and food. Redbeard did a lot of property damage. He tore toilets out of walls, stabbed and ruined bedding and pillows leaving the knife menacingly in the bed. He smeared feces on walls and shat on the beds of home owners. Stealing a gun and breaking doors and windows to get into homes.
    Your reporting was shamefully inadequate on this one. Curious because your reporting on mental illness in families was astute. redbeard based on his above behavior is clearly mentally ill. for that he may deserve our concern but he was someone who was unhinged and needed to be apprehended.
    Before he or a police officer or someone else was injured.

    • Mendoland November 21, 2021

      I haven’t read any reports of this kind of behavior. Could you please provide links to those articles or at least what newspaper/newsreport they appeared in? Thanks!

      • Professor Cosmos November 21, 2021

        There was no such reporting in the press.
        Noteworthy: no vandalism charges have been lodged.
        There may be two silly reactions here: those in the area idealizing this character (which is evident in past press reporting) and those trashing him (now evident here in comments).
        For real background, the probation report will flesh that out more realistically.

        • Mendoland November 22, 2021

          Thanks! I have not read any stories about vandalism, nor have I heard any anecdotal stories on social media. Given how small this community is, it seems that I would have heard if he had in fact damaged the properties he broke into. I was personally hoping he would wander on to a different area, leaving the Legend of Redbeard alive for sightings for the next fifty years, but with no actual threat, our own Mendocino Coast Elvis/JFK/Eddie and the Cruisers. Before he was captured there were already sightings reported which proved to be false.

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