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Tuesday, April 16, 2024 | Back issues
Courthouse News Service Courthouse News Service

SWAT Officers Kill Fort Bragg Fugitive

FORT BRAGG, Calif. (CN) - Three Sacramento SWAT team members shot suspected murderer Aaron Frederick Bassler II in the chest seven times, killing him, the Eureka Times-Standard reported Sunday.

The SWAT officers were 25 feet above Bassler, and 40 yards away, when he was spotted walking down a heavily wooded logging road, Mendocino County Sheriff-Coroner Thomas Allman told the Times-Standard. Bassler had his finger on the trigger of a high-powered rifle, a round in the chamber, and the safety off, Allman said.

Bassler was wanted for killing former Fort Bragg Mayor, Jere Melo, and Mendocino Land Trust employee Matthew Coleman, in August.

He also allegedly shot at Alameda County sheriff's deputies, Sept. 29, who were investigating vacation cabins Bassler had reportedly burglarized, the Eureka Times-Standard reported Sept. 30. Then he "appeared to disappear," before shooting came from a different direction, Allman told the Times-Standard. Sheriff's deputies returned fire each time, but could not follow him into the dense forest, where he fled, Allman told the paper.

The search for Bassler began Aug. 24, when Bassler allegedly shot and killed Melo on private timber land east of Ft. Bragg. Bassler's father, and other evidence found later, connected him with the Aug. 11 Coleman murder in a local forest, said the Times-Standard. Aaron Bassler's father told the local Press Democrat, in September, that his son was mentally ill, broke, anti-social, and preferred to be in the wilderness.

Forty law enforcement agencies, including local, state and federal officers, assisted in the hunt for Bassler, Allman told the Times-Standard.

Bassler had been living in the forest when he shot Melo, who was investigating a possible marijuana operation. It turned out to be a small field of poppies that Bassler was protecting with bunkers dug into the ground and crow's nests built in the trees, for lookouts.

"We came close to Bassler several times, Allman told the Times-Standard Saturday evening. "We were hampered by his great knowledge of the area."

"No more lives will be in danger because of Aaron Bassler," Allman told the Times-Standard.

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