Authorities: CA murder suspect killed in manhunt

A surveillance photograph from a motion detection camera set up by the Mendocino SWAT team shows a man the Mendocino County Sheriff's Office believes to be Aaron Bassler, who appears to be holding an automatic weapon, breaking into a vacation cabin.The photo was released by the Mendocino County Sheriffs Office in Fort Bragg on Sept. 26, 2011.
Christopher Chung,AP Photo/The Press Democrat

FORT BRAGG, Calif. - Authorities say a man suspected of killing a Fort Bragg councilman and county land trust official was fatally shot by officers after he raised his high-powered rifle in an encounter six miles east of the Northern California town.

Mendocino County Sheriff Thomas Allman said at a press conference Saturday evening that Aaron Bassler died instantly after officers shot him seven times, bringing to an end a weeks-long manhunt.

Allman says officers found Bassler with the help of a bloodhound tracker dog that found his tracks after a burglary at a nearby truck shop.

Dozens of local and federal authorities had been searching in the redwood forests near Fort Bragg, putting the residents of the coastal town on edge.

Bassler, 35, had been the subject of a manhunt since Councilman Jere Melo and a second man separately confronted him while investigating reports of an illegal marijuana farm outside of town.

Authorities: Calif. fugitive fired at deputies
Fort Bragg Councilman Jere Melo killed while investigating pot operation

Police said Bassler was cultivating some 400 poppy plants and was holed up in a makeshift bunker when he fired on the 69-year-old Melo and a co-worker who escaped and called for help.

Bassler was also wanted in the fatal shooting of Matthew Coleman of the Mendocino County Land Trust. The former Fish and Game Department employee was found dead next to his car on Aug. 11 up the coast from Fort Bragg.

Dozens of local and federal authorities scoured the forests near Fort Bragg, but Bassler eluded them for more than a month. A surveillance photo showed that he was armed with a high-power rifle, and he was believed to have broken into several cabins to steal food and at least two other weapons.

His death comes two days after he fired at deputies. Mendocino County Sheriff Allman said Thursday that he had hoped that Bassler would be captured alive.

"If this ended without another shot being fired," Allman had said, "we'd all be satisfied."