Authorities: CA Slayings Suspect Killed In Manhunt


Associated Press
October 2, 2011 2:18AM (UTC)

FORT BRAGG, Calif. (AP) — A man suspected in the fatal shootings of a Fort Bragg councilman and a county land trust official was shot and killed Saturday after a massive manhunt in the redwood forests of Northern California, a sheriff's deputy said.

Deputy Ron Parsons of the Sacramento County Sheriff's Department said Aaron Bassler was shot and killed around midday outside Fort Bragg, according to The Santa Rosa Press-Democrat (http://bit.ly/pe4OOZ). He said a member of his agency had been involved in the shooting.

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Bassler, 35, had been sought since Councilman Jere Melo and a second man separately confronted him while investigating reports of an illegal marijuana farm outside of town.

Police said Bassler was cultivating some 400 poppy plants and was holed up in a makeshift bunker when he fired on the 69-year-old Melo and a co-worker who escaped and called for help.

Bassler was also wanted in the fatal shooting of Matthew Coleman of the Mendocino County Land Trust. The former Fish and Game Department employee was found dead next to his car on Aug. 11 up the coast from Fort Bragg.

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Dozens of local and federal authorities scoured the forests near Fort Bragg in one of the area's largest manhunts in decades, but Bassler eluded them for more than a month. A surveillance photo showed that he was armed with a high-powered rifle, and he was believed to have broken into several cabins to steal food and at least two other weapons.

The 7,000 residents of Fort Bragg had been on edge while the manhunt has enveloped their coastal fishing and lumber community. The area is frequented by tourists in this coastal community about three hours north of San Francisco.

Posters seeking his capture hang in the windows of most shops in this fishing and lumber town, where authorities told residents to stay out of their vacation cabins until Bassler was arrested.

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The details of Bassler's death were not immediately released. Mendocino County authorities said in a release earlier Saturday that they had "located" him, but refused to elaborate pending a news conference.

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Information from: The Santa Rosa Press Democrat, http://www.pressdemocrat.com

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