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Authorities shoot, kill Fort Bragg slaying suspect Aaron Bassler

  • Mendocino Co. Sheriff Thomas Allman uses a precent photo of the suspect as he gives details about the death of murder suspect Aaron Bassler during a press conference at the Ft. Bragg Police Department on Saturday, October 1, 2011, Ft. Bragg, California. (BETH SCHLANKER/ The Press Democrat)

Aaron Bassler was shot and killed by law enforcement agents just after noon Saturday, ending a grueling 36-day hunt for the Fort Bragg man charged with ambushing and killing two men in coastal Mendocino County, authorities said.

Bassler, 35, had an assault rifle in hand, his finger near the trigger, when three members of a SWAT unit posted in the dense forest spotted him walking about 40 yards away along a timber road, Mendocino County Sheriff Tom Allman said.

The team fired. Bassler raised his weapon and they fired again, Allman said. Seven shots later, Bassler was dead, Allman said.

Shootout In Search For Aaron Bassler

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"I've stated many times that I wish this incident could have ended without another shot fired," Allman said. "But I fully support the manner in which this ended. No more lives are endangered by Aaron Bassler."

Bassler had been charged with the Aug. 11 shooting death of Matt-hew Coleman, 45, of Albion and the Aug. 27 slaying of Fort Bragg City Councilman Jere Melo, 69.

Greg Melo, the son of the slain former Fort Bragg mayor and timber manager, said Saturday afternoon that he had been informed of the suspect's death by a relative in Fort Bragg.

"I heard what I needed to hear. None of our people got hurt, and the threat's neutralized," said Melo, 41, who lives in Coos Bay, Ore.

"I've got so many friends in Fort Bragg who are breathing easier. Today's a good day."

Melo said that his father had been patrolling private forest lands with another man, who has not been identified, looking for an illegal marijuana plot, when Bassler charged through the brush, shooting Melo in the chest six times.

Melo's companion fired back, then fled toward the Skunk Train, where he flagged down a maintenance rail car that took him to safety. He identified Bassler as the assailant.


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