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


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.

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