A despondent Aliso Viejo man was the target of a large search and rescue operation in Trabuco Canyon on Monday afternoon, but about five hours after it began, the episode reached a tragic conclusion.
An Orange County Sheriff's Department K-9 unit found the body of Adam Razani, 25, who apparently killed himself with a handgun.
The search, which involved bloodhounds, patrol units and a helicopter, began after officers were dispatched at 1:28 p.m. along the Holy Jim Trail near where the victim's vehicle was found by family members.
According to Lt. Joe Balicki, relatives contacted deputies to report a missing person after discovering disturbing posts on Razani's Facebook page. Late in the morning, Razani left a Facebook post from near Trabuco Canyon that read "Forgive me everybody...I'm sorry".
He also posted an Instagram titled "My final photo"; it appeared to show Razani's thigh, kneeling on the ground, with a handgun resting on his camouflage pants.
About 9:30 p.m., Razani's father, Mike Razani, posted a photo of his son and this message on Adam's Facebook page: "Today, I lost my son Adam Razani in a bad way. I will always love my son. Please give me and my wife some time and space to process the bad news. I will talk to you guys later."
According to Balicki, the victim's sister contacted OCSD and informed police that Razani was despondent and may be suicidal, based upon the social media posts, but also that he was believed to be armed.
Police converged on the Holy Jim Trail in Trabuco Canyon. "He was considered armed, but there was more concern about the threat of suicide than the community being in danger," Balicki said. "He hadn't committed any crimes or made any threats to the welfare of anyone else."
Around 6:30 p.m., his body was discovered on a ridge above the vehicle, about 100 yards away, Balicki said.
Though Razani was close to the vehicle, Balicki indicated heat may have played a factor in taking so long to find the body.
"It's my understanding the bloodhounds pick up scents and go in all different directions," Balicki said. "The problem with this time of year is that bloodhounds don't pick up scents in the heat, especially midday. The helicopter, they get a visual, but when it comes to using the infrared for heat signatures, that doesn't work in the heat. I didn't think they'd find him until tonight."
Razani was discovered by a patrol K-9 unit.
OC Weekly reported that Razani was a technician in the Air Force following his enlistment in 2008 after graduating from Saddleback College; in 2011 he served in Afghanistan until earlier this year.
Balicki said Razani's family did not indicate why he was despondent. The young man left a Facebook post from near Mission Viejo about two hours before his final post that read: "Life is a trip. Confused...." Both posts were made with his cell phone.
Before that, his posts seemed to represent a person in good spirits, with a couple of comments about "great food" and being good to go on Sunday: "Kick back. BBQ check. Meat and buns — check. Beers and Champagne. GTG for the sunday."
Razani went on terminal leave from the Air Force in late March. In February, he purchased the car of his dreams, he wrote on Facebook, an Infinity G35. In a January 24 entry, he wrote: "I miss being home with my family. 9 more weeks man, and I will be living the So Cal dream once again."
Razani celebrated his birthday last month, July 31. He was a 2005 graduate of Aliso Niguel High in Aliso Viejo, and studied biochemistry at Saddleback. According to his Facebook page, he enjoyed movies and clubs, and researching topics such as chemistry and astronomy.
Balicki said as many as 20 or more sheriff's personnel took part in the search. "It's a lot for someone who hadn't committed a crime," he said. "The fact that he had firearms and was out in the open—it's not against the law to take your own life, so if someone threatened suicide in their home, we'll take it seriously and respond, but you're not going to force entry into a home if they threaten to take some pills.
"If you've got someone who is out in public and could come into contact with someone else, we're going to take that a little more serious," Balicki said. "Armed and out in the open, you have no idea what could happen, and so you want to err on the side of caution."
Balicki, a watch commander in South Orange County, said it's not unusual to have five to 10 suicide threats in the course of a shift, though most don't end as tragically as Monday's.