After a five-week manhunt in the woods around Fort Bragg last Saturday, authorities caught up with 35-year old Adam Bassler. Bassler is suspected of killing a Fort Bragg city councilman, Jere Melo, on Aug. 27 and one other person. About 50 officers and two bloodhounds were scouring the forests near Fort Bragg, a day after Aaron Bassler fired shots at Alameda County deputies, said Kurt Smallcomb, a captain with Mendocino County sheriff’s office.
While on the run, Bassler had broken into several cabins to steal food and at least two other weapons, authorities said. Bassler was familar with the area (30 years), while the U.S. Marshalls searching for him only had 34 days experience in the area.
Wanted posters had been placed in the windows of most shops in this fishing and lumber town three hours north of San Francisco. A half dozen armed agents rode shotgun Friday on the region’s biggest tourist attraction, the fabled Skunk Train.
Bassler continued to evade authorities until a Sacramento SWAT team shot and killed him last Saturday. Bassler was sniffed out by a bloodhound about six miles east of Fort Bragg, and he was shot seven times by SWAT team guys waiting in the trees.
The suspect’s father, James Bassler, said he had tried for years to get county authorities put his son into a mental health program, but that his letters and calls had gone unanswered due to privacy laws that protect his son. Bassler suffered from schizophrenia.
In early 2009, Bassler was arrested in San Francisco for tossing a fake bomb and drawings of space aliens over the fence of the Chinese consulate. Bassler ended up on federal probation and received psychiatric treatment following that incident, and his father said he “toed the line” and stayed out of trouble for a while, living with his mother. He then began to backslide in the last year, and got arrested in Februrary 2011 for driving his car onto a tennis court and being drunk and disorderly. At that time his family tried to get the court to intervene concerning his mental health, warning that he could be a danger to the community, but the court refused.
Now a mental health advocate, Bassler’s family, and Fort Bragg officials are pushing county officials to adopt Laura’s Law, which makes it easier to force treatment upon the violence-prone mentally ill. They believe these three deaths might not have happened if Bassler had been forced into receiving treatment long ago. Laura’s Law is currently only fully enforced in Nevada County. The law was named for Laura Wilcox, who was shot by a mentally ill man in Nevada County in 2001.