Aaron Bassler: A Lethal and Deadly Engagement

Kym Kemp / Saturday, Oct. 1, 2011 @ 7:15 p.m. / Mendocino ,  News

The Mendocino Co. Sheriff Tom Allman  announced tonight that Aaron Bassler was killed at 12:23 this afternoon.

According to Allman, yesterday another burglary was reported outside of the 6 square miles that law enforcement had encircled.  A garage/shop was broken into.  Ammunition and food items, as well as matches and other items were stolen.  The MO fit Bassler. A canine unit, a bloodhound,  was brought in and followed the trail.  Darkness fell. And they had to regroup. They used the information  gathered to imbed tacticle teams in the newly expanded area which was on private property.

After 12pm, a trio of officers from Sacramento, 2 miles from most recent burglary, observed a man wearing black clothing and carrying a rifle in his right hand.  By his clothing, gun, and facial features, they recognized the man as Aaron Bassler. The officers were 40 yds away and 25 higher in elevation than the suspect. There was brush between the officers and Bassler. Although there was no verbal contact, at least two of the officers fired.  Bassler fell to the ground.  There were seven shots fired.  All seven hit in the upper torso.  The suspect did not fire any shots. Allman said that suspect “raised his rifle towards their location…He had his finger on the trigger…”  Later, it was determined that  a round was in the chamber and the safety was not on.

No law enforcement officers injured. Allman fully supports what happened.       Additional personnel sent by Sacramento in the last days allowed more law enforcement to be in the area. Allman added, ” We thought we had him encircled,”  Allman said.  Then added that if the burglery had not been reported,  he doubts that they would have found him today.

I fully support the manner in which this happened,” Allman stated firmly.   Bassler’s previous actions  “…clearly led us to belive that any contact with law enforcement would lead to lethal and deadly engagement. ”


Photo from Mendocino Sheriff Dept.


  • […] 7:23:  Mendo Sheriff Confirms Bassler’s death and gives details. GA_googleAddAttr(“AdOpt”, “1”); GA_googleAddAttr(“Origin”, “other”); […]
  • […] Bassler confirmed dead.  Details here. GA_googleAddAttr(“AdOpt”, “1”); GA_googleAddAttr(“Origin”, “other”); […]
  • How very sad, the whole thing for all parties involved is very sad.
  • I am sorry for A B and his life story. I am also supportive of the officers and glad no other lives were lost in the process. Life can be tentative and fleeting. My gratitude to the humans and animals who participated. This or a darker outcome was most likely inevitable.
  • In response to Starla Strong
    The whole story is very sad, There was not feeling of relief when the man hunt ended. My heart goes out to Aaron’s family who tried for a very long time to intervene. My heart goes out to Jere and Mathews, family and friends.
    My hope is that mental health & drug programs-which were terminated during Reaganomics in the late 70′s and early 80′s- will be reinstated as a social need.
    I also commend the different branches of law that took every effort to find Aaron alive.
    Let’s start healing our communities.
  • Wow. At 12:23 today I was coaching my son’s soccer team. I believe at that point we were down 1-0. Within a few minutes we would tie it up and move on to a very enjoyable 4-2 win. My son played his heart out. All of the fields around us were filled with the sounds of kids playing and parents cheering. All of us oblivious to the pain a couple of hours to our south.

    I’m glad it’s over.
  • Additional Information:

    THE shooting took place on a logging road 13 miles west of the small hamlet of Northspur, according to details released at a Saturday evening news conference. Aaron Bassler had been tracked there by Willow, a bloodhound from the Pomona (Los Angeles County) Police Department picking up Bassler’s scent from a door he had kicked in on Friday afternoon while burglarizing a truck shop 2 miles away.

    THREE members of the Sacramento County SWAT team were in the trees about 40 yards from Bassler when he came toward them on a timber trail. Bassler was shot seven times. He died at the scene and an autopsy is planned for Monday in Ukiah.

    THERE was no return fire from Bassler, but he raised his Norinco SKS toward the deputies as he fell. The SWAT team members were approximately 40 yards away and 25 feet above him. Bassler was wearing black clothing, a backpack and a fanny pack. Authorities say his high-powered rifle that was seen in a surveillance photo taken last week is the same weapon used to kill two people and had shot at three sheriff’s deputies days earlier.

    BASSLER is believed responsible for at least six break-ins during the manhunt, making off with two guns as well as food. Among the items stolen Friday were rounds of ammunition in three calibers, beer, two compasses and size 12 boots. Officials had been confounded by Aaron Bassler’s survival skills and ability to elude them in the 400-square-mile search perimeter. “He’s very savvy in the woods. He’s proven to be very adept,” said Sgt. Chad Lewis of the Sacramento County Sheriff’s SWAT team.

    DURING the dragnet, Bassler had one confirmed encounter with people who happened to cross his path. Three weeks ago, he stopped to talk with a group of transients and “did not treat them in a threatening manner,” Mendocino County Sheriff Tom Allman said. “He evidently only wanted to shoot people in authority.

    BASSLER grew up in Fort Bragg and spent much of his youth outdoors. Signs of moodiness and erratic behavior reportedly emerged in high school, and, at the age of 19, he was arrested for crashing a house party. At least 10 more arrests followed.

    THE manhunt disrupted life in the area as law enforcement officials restricted forest use and told residents to stay out of their vacation cabins until Bassler was arrested. Wanted posters offering a $30,000 reward for Bassler hung in the windows of most shops. Chriss Zaida, who owns a clothing store in the area, heard celebration in the streets when news of Bassler’s death spread.

    SATURDAY night, Aaron Bassler’s stepmother, Helen, emerged briefly from the family home down a narrow dirt road when reporters arrived. “He was my stepson, and I loved him,” she said before breaking into sobs. “We can’t say any more tonight.

    (Information sourced from CBS News and the San Francisco Chronicle, 10/2/11)
  • For those of us who still have a beating heart left after this tragic event, please ceaselessly advocate for the right for families to demand mental health intervention for their family members before we are faced with this again. The unconditional love of a parent to a child expressed by the Basslers rips at my heart. With three sons and a daughter and two granddaughters, I feel their pain. Aaron Bassler killed my friend. I have forgiven him already. Aaron Bassler was a lost soul in a violent sea of paranoid confusion. His past interactions with law enforcement resulting in tasers, pepper spray, a black eye, jail, all helped shape his deadly paranoia. As a caring and peaceful community, we need to closely examine our willingness to react but we’re not willing to be proactive. We gladly pay for the result but refuse to invest in preventing the cause(s). We systematically empty the toolbox of all of our tools then filled the toolbox with hammers. When all you have is a hammer, everything looks like a nail. You can’t fix cracked glass with a hammer. You can only shatter it to pieces.
  • The end of this inevitable tragic story. To the brave and determined officers a community and state thankyou and a realization that some times the good guys win and normal life for normal people can return and a deterrent for those who consider killing others and lives of crime which today seems way too common.
    To the judges and defense attornies, both local, state and federal, who let the killer off the hook so many times and allowed his drug fueled violent psychosis to grow into serial murder, maybe think about your actions next time this same person comes along. It is time to rewrite how to deal with criminally psychotic people early on before they get to this point.
  • I am, frankly, quite relieved. Justice was served. The end.
  • In response to Elk Ridge
  • More from (yes, you guessed it) Mendocino County Sheriff Tom Allman,

    from SFGate Sunday October 2, 2011

    During the dragnet, Allman said Bassler had one confirmed encounter with people who happened to cross his path. Three weeks ago, he stopped to talk with a group of transients and “did not treat them in a threatening manner,” Allman said. “He evidently only wanted to shoot people in authority.”

    What does this statement mean? What is this man talking about?
    Is he trying to create folk hero out of Bassler or is he just making a subliminal pitch for reelection campaign funds to likely contributors? Were we all in danger or just ’us’ as opposed to ’them’?
  • In response to scott

    This comment is full of insight and power. Bless you Bro’.
  • In response to Elk Ridge
    So if I’m a defense attorney assigned to his case I should sabotage it? Or should the mentally ill only be assigned bad attorneys? I’m not certain exactly what you expect.
  • wouldn’t it be nifty if it were all so pat. the ‘good guys’ vs. ‘bad guys’. just like that. cops are just plain old good - the mentally incompetent, paranoid delusional, untreated schizophrenics who have been tazed, pepper sprayed and beat-up by the ‘good guys’ and whose parent’s and sister begged and forewarned the entire system of ‘good guys’ of his obvious serious mental decline and his very real potential for doing harm to himself and beloved community - he must be the plain old ‘bad guys’.

    seems pretty logical. gosh - i suddenly feel safef. how ‘bout you? still feel like the ‘good guys’ won? i’m a good guy and i didn’t win. my life isn’t normal anymore. and as if the mentally incompetent “consider killing others and lives of crime” somehow through the fog of schizophrenia. this was “his drug fueled violent psychosis to grow into serial murder” moment, i guess. unfortunately not. he was fighting the ‘martian army’ and my friend Matt just happened to be a mistaken for a martian in the wrong place at the wrong time - perhaps wearing the wrong colored shirt. it’s just way too easy to pin this on ‘drugs’. I am thankful for so much, but not for any part of this.
  • In response to scott
    Well said, Scott.
  • In response to Kym Kemp
    Wow, that is amazingly right on. Thank you so very much. I live in Fort Bragg. This has been an awful ordeal. I feel really bad about the outcome.
  • In response to scott
    much appreciation for writing this. you put how i feel into words.
  • In response to scott
    Thanks for sharing that.
  • In response to oe
    Or maybe he’s simply reporting on what was reported to him without concern for how it will be interpreted.
  • What is important is that there are good, well trained people who will put their lives on the line for others and make lethal sound decisions that save lives. They do this everyday in every corner of this country. This killer was gunning for anyone he thought was a threat and by the way he carried his rifle it was obvious he was going to shoot quickly without regard. It was only by chance a homeowner wasn’t home when he was kicking in doors to steal more guns and ammo. Now I hope to see his rifle traced to whoever provided it or sold it to a madman and multiple convicted criminal offender. Also, the investigation into how many others did he kill will begin. There are at least three other murders he is a good suspect for. There easily could be more going back a dozen years at least.
  • In response to Elk Ridge
    L.E. gave Aaron information on how to end this peacefully, but once he fired on the deputies he pretty much sealed his fate. The only way he would have survived would have been to have approached LEO’s unarmed with his hands in the clear. As it was, he had his rifle at the ready and had he been hailed by the deputies, it is a reasonable assumption that he would have fired upon them. Rightfully, the deputies weren’t going to spot Aaron the first shot. It was a perfectly legal and fully justified shooting. I am sure that every one of those deputies would have preferred that this ended peacefully, but in the end they really had no choice. I strongly suspect that Matt Coleman’s murder was not Aaron’s first killing, but alas, we will likely never know for certain.

    I too, would like to have answers as to how he acquired the Norinco SKS if indeed he did get it illegally. Keep in mind the fact that he at one point lawfully owned firearms, and it is also highly likely that he stashed one or more after he was prohibited from purchase and possession. If in fact someone recently assisted him in obtaining a weapon, I would like to see them prosecuted to the fullest extent the law allows. Unfortunately, this may raise a hue and cry for yet more gun control legislation, when the fact is we already have plenty of laws on the books. If anything, more effort needs to be made enforcing the laws we already have and prosecuting those in violation of those laws, instead of more laws that restrict law-abiding folks.

    As to the “drug fueled psychosis”, the main relationship that drugs have to this case is the fact that untreated schizophrenics have a substance abuse rate of between 50 and 75%. The drug factor is ancillary at best to the main issue, which is untreated mental illness.
  • In response to Elk Ridge
    The murdering SOB is dead and good riddance. It’s terrible and sad but those are the emotions associated with a murdering psychopath on a killing spree. Feel sorry for his victims. He’s a serial killer that would have shot any of you in a heartbeat too. Many are disturbed but they don’t resort to murder. As for shooting at Martians…Give me a brake. He knew what he was doing with every pull of the trigger.

    There’s much to be said about providing psychological care and early intervention for those in need. Our society gets a F- in that catagory but with budget cuts and dwindling resources positive change seems remote.
  • In response to G.I.B.
    Your diagnosis of Bassler’s mental state may be correct but you failed to indicate your qualifications and opportunity to interview him. He was a ‘mad dog’ and needed to be captured if reasonably possible or shot dead before he created more suffering. He and we have our conclusion to this rampage. No right-minded person
    is really happy about this.
    Regarding your statement:
    “but with budget cuts and dwindling resources positive change seems remote” I respectfully suggest that you and others not give up but rather ‘rage against the machine’ that, if properly functioning, could have prevented this…and the next one.

    Plutocracy sucks, don’t it.
  • In response to G.I.B.
    G.I.B…. Please leave Aaron’s mother out of this discussion. There’s simply no reason to call her names. It demeans the innocent parents and distracts away from your valid points. The gist of what you are saying is worthy, but let us not forget the system that allowed him to remain dangerous and free among us. That, my friend, is the real cause of this tragedy and it is something that we can all address.

    I don’t know what went through his mind before pulling the trigger on my friend or Jere. Neither do you. To say that he had the presence of mind to make a rational decision to kill someone doesn’t add up when you look at his past behavior and his well documented mental decline.
    You may have some other insight into his specific mental condition that leads you to your conclusion about what he knew or thought about before pulling the trigger each time he did, I sure don’t.

    I do know that in order to be a “Murderer”, one must have the mental capacity for ‘malice aforethought’. Simply aiming and pulling the trigger isn’t enough to suggest that he had any idea at whom he was shooting and why.

    I am terribly sad that my friend was killed and we, his friends, community and his family suffer agonizingly through this everyday. Knowing what I know, I just can’t bring myself to feel anger or hatred towards anyone, even the one who pulled the trigger.
  • There are multiple studies out there dealing with restricted and or illegal drugs and psychosis, I read one where frequent smoking of cannabis fueled psychosis to very dangerous levels of paranoia and criminality. What we know about AB is that he is a prime example of what drug fueled psychosis can do. There has to be some accountability for the light sentences he received for tossing fake bombs into the Chinese Consulate twice and both appear to be after 9-11-2001 so the laws should of been one strike and he should of been locked up somewhere for many years for a domestic terrorism case. I also read his father stated that AB liked to collect guns which is surprizing because he wasn’t legally able to since his early teens. The question will be how was he ” Collecting Guns” was this when he was described as a successful cannabis grower, or after his decline when he was reported to be on welfare living in the woods growing opium and armed with his rifle. The murders he may have committed over the last dozen years or more, some will remain a mystery, like the vanished timber company worker from last fall, others will be tested against his DNA.
  • Elk Ridge, drugs can cause psychosis, but drug induced psychosis and schizophrenia are quite distinct in their set of symptoms. Aaron was a textbook paranoid schizophrenic…I am comfortable saying that because I have direct, first hand knowledge of him.

    As for his prior convictions prohibiting him from purchasing or possessing firearms, in fact he had no felony convictions whatsoever. misdemeanor convictions do not prohibit one for firearm possession except for a couple of exceptions. This is a list of reasons to deny.


    A person who has been convicted in any court of a crime punishable by imprisonment for a term exceeding one year or any state offense classified by the state as a misdemeanor and is punishable by a term of imprisonment of more than two years.

    Persons who are fugitives of justice—for example, the subject of an active felony or misdemeanor warrant.

    An unlawful user and/or an addict of any controlled substance; for example, a person convicted for the use or possession of a controlled substance within the past year; or a person with multiple arrests for the use or possession of a controlled substance within the past five years with the most recent arrest occurring within the past year; or a person found through a drug test to use a controlled substance unlawfully, provided the test was administered within the past year.

    A person adjudicated mental defective or involuntarily committed to a mental institution or incompetent to handle own affairs, including dispositions to criminal charges of found not guilty by reason of insanity or found incompetent to stand trial.

    A person who, being an alien, is illegally or unlawfully in the United States.

    A person who, being an alien except as provided in subsection (y) (2), has been admitted to the United States under a non-immigrant visa.

    A person dishonorably discharged from the United States Armed Forces.

    A person who has renounced his/her United States citizenship.

    The subject of a protective order issued after a hearing in which the respondent had notice that restrains them from harassing, stalking, or threatening an intimate partner or child of such partner. This does not include ex parte orders.

    A person convicted in any court of a misdemeanor crime which includes the use or attempted use of physical force or threatened use of a deadly weapon and the defendant was the spouse, former spouse, parent, guardian of the victim, by a person with whom the victim shares a child in common, by a person who is cohabiting with or has cohabited in the past with the victim as a spouse, parent, guardian or similar situation to a spouse, parent or guardian of the victim.

    A person who is under indictment or information for a crime punishable by imprisonment for a term exceeding one year.

    The earliest incident that would have prohibited Bassler from possessing firearms would be the Chinese Consulate affair on psychiatric grounds. All his earlier run ins with the law resulted in basically petty misdemeanor convictions, none of which would have barred him from firearm ownership. As I’ve stated before, I suspect that Bassler had that SKS stashed away for the day of his personal paranoid apocalypse, and probably didn’t get it recently. Hopefully, that information will be forthcoming from Law Enforcement.

    I agree that the courts just wanted to sweep Bassler under the carpet. But I’m not convinced that incarceration and punishment is the complete answer to the problem. He needed mental health treatment as much as, if not more, than he needed jail.
  • There are also numerous studies that show that mentally ill people frequently attempt self-medication using illegal drugs and alcohol - albeit that most are woefully unsuccessful. I am seeing the chicken or the egg argument there. Was his mental state brought on by drugs or were drugs the result of his pained mental state…Easier to guess how many licks it takes to get to the center of a tootsie roll tootsie pop even though the wise old owl says the world may never know…

    Why do you say it was illegal for him to possess firearms from his early teens? As far as I understand, his convictions were all misdemeanors. That only precludes you from POSSESSING a firearm while you are on probation if it is included as a condition of probation. If you already own a legally obtained gun, you may possess it again after your release from probation. Concealed weapons are another animal altogether and unless permitted are always forbidden.

    And as far as him being on some ‘drug fueled psychotic rage’, I don’t know how you obtained that information. I don’t recall seeing that anywhere and his parents who probably knew him a bit better than you said that they first suspected his psychosis was the result of drugs and alcohol but over time were convinced that he was schizophrenic. I have a real hard time imagining that all the pot smokers out there are just ticking time-bombs, waiting to go on murderous drug fueled rampages through our towns.

    That sounds like you are quoting reefer madness…

    100% propaganda - 0% science.

    Psychotic people are unpredictable. Plain and simple. He did what he did and we’ll never know why because he is dead. Plain and simple. Blame him for everything if it makes you sleep better at night. It doesn’t work that way for me.
  • One of the indicators that a psychosis is drug induced is if the symptoms diminish when drug use stops. Aaron had periods where he wasn’t using at all, and the delusions and paranoia persisted. There are also symptoms in the very early stages that are unique to schizophrenia and other schizoid-type disorders that aren’t found in drug induced psychosis. Bassler exhibited these in his late teens.
  • In response to scott
    Scott, I think you already know I meant no offense to her with my colloquialism of AB. I’d be more concerned about the rehabilitation of a psychotic serial killer. The insight you question into his mental condition is a combination of common sense and decades of hands on experience.

    Perhaps you’ll let Bassler take more responsibility for his actions as time passes. Who knows but blame AB before the system. Bassler did much much more than just merely pull a trigger Scott. Aforthought came with the second shot. Malice with the first.

    The greatest tragedy to me is the loss of your friends and all the pain and suffering in your community. It’s heartbreaking and difficult to feel during the grieving process. Emotions can change from minute to minute. Please know you’re all in the prayers of many.

    I hope we’ll fix the system eventually but after dozens of letters of protest over the years, our elected officials don’t seem to be interested. We won’t give up.
  • In response to scott
    Thank you
  • Many years ago I was asked to help mentor a young man that suffered from mental illness much like Aaron Bassler. His father is a close friend of mine and was pretty much at the end of his ability to deal with Buddy’s strange and erratic behavior. Buddy had been sent to prison. I believe he was convicted of hiring someone to do bodily harm to one of his enemies. His father was old school and felt that he created this problem for himself, so he had to pay the consequences. Shortly after Buddy got out of prison was about the time that I started spending time with Buddy. Buddy had no friends, although his parents loved him and did their best to help him in many ways. His parents were very successful educators and had enough resources to get him medical help. When I first met Buddy he was three years old and I was 15 years old. His father was my basketball coach in high school. His father trusted me enough to babysit him and his younger sister. His sister became a successful college teacher with a doctorate degree. I hadn’t seen Buddy for many years, although he still remembered me and we became close friends after reacquainting. We played tennis, went to church together, had many long conversations. Buddy had musical talent and could play keyboard. One day I told I was going to paint my house which was very tedious task, being all the old paint was peeling and needed to be scraped off. Buddy generously offered his help and never would accept any money for his labor.

    As his illness progressed along, he started having hallucinations which to him were real. I remember one time after he had moved up to Lake County in a trailer park. Late one night he called me long distance. He was very upset and said there were strange black men dressed in white powdered warpaint jumping around on his roof and keeping him awake. He felt very threatened and upset. He said every time he went out there to chase them off they would disappear, when he went back inside, they would come back out and the whole routine would start over again. He tried to get the people at the trailer park to help them. It wasn’t long after that they evicted him. When he was in prison they had Buddy on psychiatric drugs to help normalize his behavior. He told me eight weeks before getting discharged from prison, they cut him off all his psychiatric drugs cold turkey. He told me at that time he suffered severely and never felt worse.

    His parents had been divorced since his adolescent years and his mother lived in California and his father lived in New Mexico. Buddy was still living in California and causing his mother much emotional trauma and grief. Her health was failing from all the stress. Finally his father moved Buddy back to New Mexico and got him set up in a licensed home with other male patients and a licensed staff to help administer their medication and make things were orderly and ran smooth. I remember his father and him were planning a trip out to California to visit his mother and sister. Buddy refuse to cut his hair for the trip out, his father gave him an ultimatum, cut your hair or you won’t be coming to California with me and of course Buddy chose to stay in New Mexico. I believe he never did get to see his mother or sister again. He eventually committed suicide with a drug overdose from his prescription drugs he had saved up and took them all at once.

    Buddy’s memorial service was very nice, mostly just friends of his parents and older church members. Besides myself there was only one other friend that spoke at the service. His parents were devastated, I’m sure they felt like they had failed him. I know they loved him dearly, made mistakes like all of us parents do, but not certain anyone could have saved him except for the almighty. There’s always plenty of guilt to go around when these unfortunate tragedies occur. I’m very grateful to have known Buddy. I wish I could have done more to help and comfort him, although I’m not certain the outcome would have been different. Except for bursts of anger Buddy never was
    violent towards me. I’m not certain why I’m telling this story, but I do know when a life is thrown away for whatever reason, it is a tragedy that is hard to make sense of. Most certainly hurts us all.

    I’m sure some of his close friends (before he became ill) that attended elementary or high school with him have fond memories of happier times with Buddy or possibly maybe even Aaron.
  • In response to Sunny
    The loved mentally ill in our life do not fit neatly into packages of black and white or good and bad. We’re left holding a handful of sweet memories crusted with pain and we don’t know how to deal with the way society tells us we should feel towards them for all the harm they’ve caused and our sense that we don’t really believe that they could help themselves.
  • In response to Sunny
    Sunny, thank you for all you did, for being there, and the sharing of your words here. While the circumstances regarding both Aaron, Buddy, and others are always unique, they also represent the not-so-unusual pattern and symptoms of early onset, adolescent schizophrenia that is difficult for parents and loved ones to understand, much less capably deal with. Simply put, it rarely makes sense to most. From my experience with others, your story is both touching and illustrative.

    Thank you, Sunny.

    For those reading here, there’s more about this and Aaron that Kym covered in her recent post.
  • In response to Elk Ridge
    You’re an idiot. He was a petty criminal, at best. Worst thing he did was drive drunk, like half the other pickup driving good ole boys up there. And as far as anyone knows, he wasn’t doing anything more than pot. And you damn well know he wasn’t the one growing poppies. Way to go - the town nut is now immortalized as the town demon. And they have yet to prove that he ever killed anyone.
  • In response to Kim

    To call someone an “idiot” for being misinformed doesn’t help further the discussion. To note, you are at least as misinformed as the ones you are calling names.

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