Aaron Bassler, a suspect in two high profile murders near Fort Bragg, exchanged gunfire with law enforcement today.

Mendocino Sheriff Tom Allman held a press conference at 8pm tonight, Thursday, Sept. 29. He announced, “At 11:50, …before noon, [three] Almeda deputies…. came under fire.”  The suspect, Aaron Bassler, dressed entirely in black opened fire on them from about 100 meters away.  They returned fire in self defense.  Bassler disappeared.  Then, later, he fired from another spot.  Officers  again returned fire.  The Alameda team were not injured.  The officers were extracted and were replaced by another team. They are now being interviewed to gather information. These officers, Allman said, are “victims of a crime and I’m not going to release their names right now.” None of the officers were injured.  And no one knows if Bassler was injured either.

Law enforcement is now “actively re-initiating” an already “high intensity search,” says Allman.  According to him, “[There are] 40 law enforcement officers..” helping in the search with “more being flown in.”  There are swat teams and K9 units from multiple counties rushing to the area. The search, however, is somewhat hampered by the dense brush.  The officers already have dogs in the area.  They are working throughout the night.  But by day or night, the canopy is so dense that they cannot see him from above in the sky and are hampered in using aerial methods.

After Bassler’s presence was known, a reverse 911 sent to the area near Northspur that he was seen in.   Although Allman is unwilling to pinpoint the area, he explained that it was the same area as the residential burglaries happened in earlier, the same area two guns were stolen from an unoccupied cabin. “We will notify residents through a reverse 911 call if we think he has moved outside of the area [they are currently searching.]”

Allman reiterated, “There is no plan to end the operation until it comes to a successful conclusion….  Some people [are] out of work ‘cause they can’t go into area.”  But, he hopes that the officers can bring the operation to a successful conclusion.   “We believe we are getting closer….Tomorrow may bring resolution. …but I’ve said that for 34 days,”  Allman acknowledged.  Still, the renewed sighting has obviously brought hope of a speedy resolution.

Today has also brought renewed awareness of the danger home especially to the families of the officers. “I truly believe that is more challenging for the spouses then it is for the officers,”  Allman explained. “Thanks to the wives of the men who going out and searching for an armed, dangerous, and very violent man.”  In spite of the danger, Allman says, ” …every law enforcement officer has gone out there with a good attitude.”

UPDATE 10:25:  Fort Bragg Advocate put out a piece with some details not mentioned above.

UPDATE 7:04: Additional details here at the Lake County News and here at the Ukiah Daily Journal.

UPDATE 9:31: Time Standard here.


Personal Note:  Thank you to the families of law enforcement who send their spouses and offspring out to search the woods as well as to the law enforcement themselves.


Thanks to Teri at KMUD for help above and beyond.  If everyone was as generous and willing to cooperate as she, the world would be a better place.