FORT BRAGG, Calif. (CN) – Aaron Bassler, the man suspected of murdering two, including former Fort Bragg Mayor, Jere Melo, allegedly shot at Alameda County sheriff’s deputies investigating vacation cabins reportedly burglarized by Bassler, the Eureka Times-Standard reported Friday.
The deputies saw Bassler, dressed in black, shooting at them with a high-caliber assault rifle from approximately 100 meters away, Mendocino County Sheriff-Coroner Thomas Allman told the Times-Standard.
“They returned fire in defense,” Allman told the Times-Standard. “The subject then appeared to disappear.”
Bassler had previously dug trenches and built crow’s nests on private forest land surrounding a poppy field, which he had been protecting when he shot the former mayor.
Ten or 15 minutes later, the deputies were shot at from a different location, and they returned fire again, it was reported. The deputies were not injured.
Deputies did not follow Bassler into the forest due to difficult terrain, Allman told the Times-Standard, adding, “the brush is very heavy; the brush is very dense.”
Officials will be searching six square miles, where they believe they may find Bassler, instead of the 400 square miles they have been searching in the last 35 days. A high intensity search with police dogs will ensue, Allman told the Times-Standard.
Bassler is wanted for the August murders of Melo, and Mendocino Land Trust employee Matthew Coleman.
The search is costing $300,000, but, “this mission is not going to be reduced on a budget concern,” Allman told the Times-Standard. “We certainly can’t walk away from a double-murder suspect.”
A $30,000 reward is being offered for information that leads to Bassler’s capture.