UPDATE: Sunday 8 am: Former Mayor of Fort Bragg is the victim.  More here.

Skunk Train officials on Facebook explained why passengers and crew were ordered to stay at Northspur earlier today by the Mendocino Co. Sheriff’s office.  Just before 11 am, a “speeder” (which is a piece of equipment that follows the Skunk Train to prevent fires) was flagged down by someone they describe as a community member and a forester.  The forester announced his partner had been shot while surveying. Apparently after notifying law enforcement,

Skunk Train personnel immediately started the process of ordering busses from agencies in an effort to transport the more than 200 passengers and crew that were at Northspur. “The benefit of having passengers held at Northspur is that we have full services there”, said Robert Jason Pinoli. “We had been asked to keep the train at Northspur and not proceed west until we’d been given an all clear. “When we attempted to send a diesel locomotive from Fort Bragg to Northspur to assist in getting the passenger train over the hill into Willits we learned that our equipment may be needed for transporting SWAT personnel and wouldn’t be permitted to go through the area. We had to re-direct the busses staged at the Willits Depot back towards Fort Bragg whereby passengers and crew could be transported out from Camp Mendocino.” By 7pm busses with all passengers and crew had arrived back in Fort Bragg.

…“This has been a very long day for everyone, we are grateful for the quick response by all law enforcement agencies, and a huge thank you to the folks at Willits Unified School District and the Mendocino Transit Authority who each sent 4 buses to assist in our efforts”. We have no details at this time on the name of the person who was allegedly shot or the person reporting the alleged crime.

Apparently, Mendocino law enforcement began deploying around the area.  At around 3, @vsolanoy asked on Twitter, “What’s going on with the Skunk Train? Police with riffle at #FortBragg station. CHP and local police down Main St.

If true (and it seems to be,) the forester’s story echos that of Matthew Coleman who was killed while inspecting property belonging to the Save the Redwoods League. This is a tragedy for people in Mendocino to be unsafe traveling in rural areas.

UPDATE 7:56pm: “Residents in eastern parts of Fort Bragg received a Reverse 911 call Saturday afternoon warning them to stay indoors. The call said an armed man in black clothing was possibly in the areas between Northspur and Sherwood Road,” says the Fort Bragg Advocate Facebook page.

UPDATE 8:00pm:  According to a press release from the Mendocino Co. Sheriff’s Dept.

On 8-27-2011 at approximately 1022 the Mendocino County Sheriffs Office was contacted regarding a shooting incident, which took place approximately four (4) mile east of Fort Bragg, CA in an area on private timber company adjacent the Noyo River.  This property is  in remote and rugged terrain.  The property is also adjacent the Skunk Rail-road lines.

Mendocino County Sheriffs Deputies along with Fort Bragg Police Personnel, California Highway Patrol and Fish and Game Officers proceeded to the area and contacted a witness to the shooting.

The independent witness in the shooting advised law enforcement personnel that they were conducting property management in the area and the suspected gunman started shooting at them.  The witness was able to flee the area and contact law enforcement via cellular telephone.

The counties SWAT Team has at the time of this press release been deployed to this rural and rugged area, in an attempt to locate any victim or suspect regarding this shooting.

At the time of this press release the suspect had been positively identified as Aaron Bassler a transient from Fort Bragg, CA.

A reverse 911 was sent out to residents in the general area of the incident.  Once the suspect is in custody, a second reverse 911 will be sent notifying residents that the area is secured.

UPDATE: 8:25: The suspect appears to be the same Aaron Bassler who was tazed and arrested in February following an alleged 80 mile an hour drunken drive down Pine St. in Fort Bragg resulting in a crash into the middle school tennis courts.


Hat tip to @inukiah  and @USelaine