Alleged Murderer Killed in Shootout With Police After Weeks-Long Manhunt in Calif.

PHOTO: Aaron Bassler mugshotPlayMendocino County Sheriffs Office
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A massive police manhunt for a schizophrenic man suspected in two fatal shootings ended with his death during a shootout with police in northern California this weekend.

Aaron Bassler, 35, was accused of killing Fort Bragg city councilman Jere Melo and a local conservationist in August.

On Thursday, Bassler engaged in two shootouts with a local SWAT team, but got away. No law enforcement officials were hit.

"Friday afternoon a new burglary was reported to us with Bassler's M.O. -- ammunition, alcohol, limited food supplies and so forth were taken," Mendocino County Sheriff Tom Allman told ABC News.

The burglary occurred 14 miles away from Thursday's shootings in the woods near Fort Bragg.

"When that information came in we moved our tactical teams and were setting up on areas where he has been known to traverse," Allman said. "[Saturday] at 12:23 p.m., three members of the Sacramento County Sheriff's office SWAT team were in position. One saw Bassler walking towards them quickly, wearing black clothing and carrying an assault rifle in his right hand."

The SWAT team members believed Bassler was ready to get in a shootout with them, the sheriff said.

"There was a round in the chamber and his rifle was not on safety. It was on fire," Allman said. "He was fully prepared to engage any law enforcement officers he saw."

Bassler was about 60 yards away when he was spotted, according to the sheriff. When he was 40 yards away, the SWAT team members shot at him and he fell to the ground.

"He was considered armed and dangerous," Allman said. "We believe there was seven shots fired. We believe all seven hit him."

When the first shot was fired Bassler raised his rifle towards them, but was killed almost instantly, the sheriff said.

"There were no verbal commands given to him to drop his weapon. After everything that's happened we believed that if law enforcement had called out their position he would have immediately fired," Allman said. "We've had 36 days of terror and that terror is now over.

"From the bottom of my heart I've said all along that I've wished and hoped that this could have ended without another shot being fired," Allman said. "If we had encountered Bassler and he wasn't carrying a firearm, or he was sleeping in the woods, the situation would have been different. But in this situation when he was alert and ready to engage, it unfortunately ended the way it did. But I surely wasn't going to put conditions on the law enforcement officers that would have put their lives in danger."

Weeks-Long Manhunt After Councilman's Death

The weeks-long manhunt for Bassler had the coastal community of 7,000 residents on edge.

The manhunt began Aug. 27, when Jere Melo, 69, a councilman and former mayor was shot and killed while walking the woods looking for a suspected illegal marijuana farm. He planned to call the GPS coordinates into police once he discovered the grove.

While Melo searched the woods with a friend, Bassler is believed to have emerged from the woods and gunned the man down, shooting him several times with high-powered shotgun.

Bassler was holed up in a makeshift bunker and tending two small opium poppy fields when he allegedly shot Melo, according to police.

Melo's co-worker escaped and called for help.

Soon after Melo's death, police connected the killing to the death of Matthew Coleman, 45, a forest ranger found dead near his car on his rural property near Fort Bragg.

A weeks-long manhunt for Bassler ensued, covering hundreds of square miles in the dense redwood forests of Mendocino County north of San Francisco. Local, state and federal law enforcement officials employed K-9 units, SWAT teams and helicopters.

The area was dotted with wanted posters and hikers were told to keep off forest trails. A charity footrace to raise money for the Mendocino Coast Hospital that would have passed through the area police were searching for Bassler was cancelled Wednesday.

In the past, "he never really did anything violent, but you could feel the potential there," his 59-year-old father, James Bassler, told ABC News. "We were all pretty scared of him, that he might go over the edge.

"He's likely out there thinking he's Rambo, shooting the bad guys," James Bassler said. "He's just totally lost."

James Bassler said his son had been living in the forest for four months after getting evicted from a Fort Bragg cabin owned by his grandmother, who died recently and left the property to somebody else.

The Bassler family had tried to get law enforcement officials to pay attention to Aaron Bassler's mental health.

"We tried to alert the authorities -- basically the way I said it, I still have a copy of the letter, 'We fear for his safety, the family's safety and community's safety,' if this mental illness isn't addressed," James Bassler said.

He reportedly received no answer.

"Law enforcement is not the department of metal health," Allman said. "We are a public safety agency in the criminal justice system."

ABC News' Russell Goldman and Christina Caron contributed to this report.