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Fort Bragg murder suspect has 'encounter' with authorities

September 29, 2011 |  7:24 pm

Aaron Bassler Mendocino County Sheriff's Department officials said Thursday that they had an "encounter" with fugitive Aaron Bassler about 14 miles east of Fort Bragg during an attempt to apprehend him.

Authorities planned to discuss the incident at an 8 p.m. news conference.

While officials declined to say more, Bassler's father and some residents in the area have said they heard gunfire Thursday afternoon.

Bassler, 35, has been charged in the Aug. 27 killing of Fort Bragg City Councilman Jere Melo, a former mayor and private forester; and in the Aug. 11 shooting death of conservationist Matthew Coleman.

There was a witness to the Melo shooting and officials recently said that DNA evidence has linked Bassler to the scene of Coleman's killing.

Authorities have been searching a 400-square-mile area of woods and canyons for Bassler and earlier this week released a photo of him breaking into a cabin. The photo was taken by one of several dozen automatic cameras in the area and showed Bassler holding a semiautomatic weapon. His pants were ripped.

Bassler's father, Fort Bragg fisherman Jim Bassler, said a friend called him Thursday afternoon to say he'd heard on his police scanner that shots had been fired in an attempt to apprehend Aaron Bassler. Jim Bassler said he subsequently spoke to sheriff's officials and was told only that they are closer to capturing his son.

"All I know is some shots were fired and they've moved in a lot more," said Jim Bassler, who has said his son suffered from delusions and paranoia that were likely signs of mental illness.

Jim Bassler said his primary concern was that no one else get hurt. "All I can do is wait for this thing to unfold," he said.

Authorities earlier this week said Bassler had apparently broken into a number of vacation cabins and that one resident had reported a 12-gauge shotgun and .22-caliber rifle missing. He is also believed to have a shotgun, which was used in the killing of Melo, they said.


Fort Bragg manhunt raises mental health questions

Fort Bragg fugitive's fingerprint found in burglarized cabin

Fort Bragg councilman killed while investigating pot operation

-- Lee Romney in San Francisco

Photo: Aaron Bassler

Credit: Mendocino County Sheriff's Department