Aaron Bassler Shot Killed Near Fort Bragg

Month-long manhunt ends

Authorities shot and killed Aaron Bassler in the woods outside Fort Bragg, according to Mendicino County Sheriff Tom Allman.

 The Press Democrat was first to report that members of the Sacramento County SWAT team came in contact with Bassler Saturday. 

Bassler is the man who has been on the run in Mendocino County for more than a month after allegedly killing two men.

During a late night news conference Sheriff Allman said three SWAT members saw Bassler walking 40 yards away along a timber road midday Saturday. The officers said he had his finger near the trigger of an assault rifle so  they fired on him. Allman said a total of seven shots were fired and in the end Bassler was dead.

 Allman initially said Bassler raised his gun before the deputies fired, but later said the fugitive raised his rifle as he was falling after being hit.  Allman said Bassler's rifle was loaded with about 30 rounds and its safety was off. He also noted that Bassler killed two people with the same weapon and had used the rifle to shoot at three sheriff's deputies on Thursday.

"Any confrontation or contact with law enforcement agents was going to be lethal and deadly,'' Allman said, adding that law permits officers to shoot at a suspected felon under such

News of the shooting spread through the Fort Bragg area hours ahead of the official announcement. Many said they were relieved Bassler was no longer a threat. 

Jeff Wright, who lives in 15 miles from the location where Bassler was shot,  got a reverse 911 call just before 2 p..m. saying that his "neighborhood has been secured." People in the area had been told they would get a call when Bassler was captured. Wright said getting that call was a relief because he knew it meant that Bassler was no longer on the loose. 

Bassler is the prime suspect in the killing of a Fort Bragg city councilman Jere Melo on Aug. 27. Melo was killed while investigating a pot farm as part of a security check for a timber company he worked for. Bassler is also suspected of killing Matthew Coleman 16 days prior to that. 

Dozens of local and federal authorities have been searching an area of the redwood forests for more than a month.  Three Alameda County sheriff's deputies exchanged gunfire with a person believed to be Bassler on Thursday. That incident intensified the manhunt on Friday and into the weekend.

 Bassler's father has said since the manhunt began that his son had mental issues.

Copyright AP - Associated Press
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