Snipers from the Sacramento County Sheriff's Office acted appropriately when they killed Aaron Bassler, bringing to a close a prolonged manhunt in the woods east of Fort Bragg, Mendocino County district attorney's officials announced Tuesday.
The finding comes a year after Bassler gunned down land steward Matthew Coleman of Albion and Fort Bragg City Councilman Jere Melo in separate ambushes.
The three Sacramento snipers who ambushed Bassler joined the manhunt on its 36th day.
Wearing camouflage, they were hiding in brush above an old logging road when Bassler seemed to "explode out of the gulch," according to the district attorney's 14-page report. His rifle was at the ready, officials said.
Without warning, the team fired 12 shots at Bassler, striking him seven times.
After a 10-month investigation into the shooting, District Attorney David Eyster said his office determined the snipers' actions were justified because Bassler had previously demonstrated he would fire without warning at law enforcement officers and other authority figures.
He called the deputies' actions "by the book."
"I think they were well briefed. I think they had a very difficult job and they did it in a very professional manner," Eyster said. "At the very end, you have to give the officers the right to defend themselves, which they did."
The report identified the sniper team members only by their last names, but Sacramento Sheriff Scott Jones on Tuesday gave their full names: Deputies Matt Owens, Brian Prehoda and Chuck Esty.
They were among 23 SWAT members sent to aid the search the day after Bassler came upon and fired at deputies from the Alameda County Sheriff's Office. During that encounter, a deputy called for Bassler to surrender. Bassler fired at him and the others, flanked them and fired again before disappearing.
New details never before made public about the Coleman and Melo killings, which took place 16 days and about 25 miles apart on the Mendocino Coast, put into focus a picture of Bassler as a disturbed man determined to gun down perceived adversaries.