Descriptions of events coming out of Mendocino County are vivid; Aaron Bassler, a mentally unstable survivalist, is on the lam, but efforts to capture him have intensified. Since August 11th Bassler has killed two men with a rifle, broken into a number of cabins, and just yesterday, engaged in a shoot out with three Alameda County sheriff’s deputies. Now the wheels are in motion for a volatile ending!
What set the wheels in motion for this escalating crisis of an out-of-control fugitive terrorizing the peaceful community of Northern California? Some reasons are provided in yesterday’s Los Angeles Times in terms of some troubling incidents dating back to 2009. It seems as if Aaron Bassler was throwing packages of odd writings and drawings onto the Chinese Consulate’s property in San Francisco.
Jim Bassler, Aaron’s father, explains that his son is paranoid and suffers from delusions that are configured as a fixation on aliens and apparently the red star symbols of Communist China. I know nothing more about it than what I’ve read, but this psychological phenomenon floors me nonetheless! Jim begged for help, but none ever came to the troubled 35-year-old.
Come to think of, a fascination with aliens is all too common, but the slant of the Chinese red stars is the kicker for weirdness. Aaron gets off on these charges, but chocks up a DUI last February for ramming his truck into a school tennis court. Not much of a surprise here, Bassler loses his truck (his license was probably suspended also), and then comes the biggest blow to this already unhinged young man.
Four months ago he moves into the forest after his grandmother’s house was sold. He had been living there alone (according to Jim Bassler), so it doesn’t sound as if he had too much of a choice, other than to make a go at it as a survivalist, enduring challenging terrain of brush, rugged hills, and dense forest. The fact that he has survived the past four months without detection or capture is testament to his native skills as an outdoorsman.
Furthermore, criminal skills have come in handy in his burglary capers of several vacation cabins close to Fort Bragg, Ca. However, Bassler did leave behind fingerprints just last Monday (at a cabin which is along the Noyo River around 14 miles east of Fort Bragg); the prints were positively identified as belonging to Bassler by a Department of Justice laboratory in Sacramento.
Another remnant of this recent burglary is a graphic black and white surveillance photograph of Aaron as he is actually in the commission of a crime. As scary as he looks anyway, with his pointy Vulcan ears, shaved skinhead crop-top, and piercing slivers resembling beady eyes, we observe his back is (fortunately) to the camera, yet the monster is toting an assault rifle!
Accounts of the killing of Jere Melo, a well-respected councilman for Fort Bragg, on August 27th have been liberally covered in the news. A few aspects of this shooting of Melo by Aaron Bassler could benefit from some clarification, however. Melo was investigating a marijuana-growing operation, but was there any such marijuana enterprise in or around what they call the Historic Skunk Train? That is, Aaron was holed up in a bunker near there, when he encountered Jere Melo and shot him. The confusing thing is that Bassler was really cultivating some 400 poppy plants and probably killed Melo since he had been exposed. Don’t know about any marijuana plants, though?
The first killing occurred on August 11th up the coast, 20 miles north of Fort Bragg. Matthew Coleman, 45, of the Mendocino County Land Trust (also a former Fish and Game Department employee) was found dead right by his car. Coleman was shot with a high-powered rifle as was Melo. I believe Bassler’s DNA has been linked to this crime scene (just confirmed that).
With regards to yesterday’s dramatic shoot-out between a three-member Alameda County Sheriff’s Office and a desperate fugitive wearing all black and apparently out-flanking these law enforcement professionals, accounts have been mostly clear in the details we get as to what really happened, with a few exceptions I’ll note shortly.
That is, we hear that Mister Bassler initiated the firing and that the sheriffs got off 10 rounds when firing back. We also hear that they positively identified Aaron, seemingly through their rifle scopes, which acted as a makeshift magnifying glass. What is not known, however, is whether any of the return shots hit a fleeing desperado of a rabbit-on-the-run. You get the picture!
I’m incomplete; a few minutes go by and Aaron fires on the sheriffs yet again. None of the sheriffs were injured, and I suspect Bassler wasn’t hit either, or else he wouldn’t have shot off another volley at law enforcement. Nonetheless, it is possible, he could have, if he was only slightly grazed by a bullet, but I doubt that’s the way it went down.
All hell is breaking loose today up there in Mendocino; I check frantically for updates every few minutes. Dozens of local, state, and federal officers have descended on the Mendocino Coast to search for this Madman (I hate to use that word, but no other seems to fit right). Bloodhounds and a Special Ops squad from Louisiana (with lots of high-tech equipment), brought in by the U.S. Marshal’s Office, is even on the scene now.
Getting Rambo on us! All right, so a mentally-ill transient softens it a little for poor Mister Bassler. After this is all over, the public may want to take a closer look at the laws regarding mental health issues, as in what does it take to get someone to get help with some turbulence of the mind they may be experiencing? After all, his dad (James Bassler) said he was schizophrenic, and you’ll have to admit he was correct!
One final shoot-out to go! No way will AB let himself be captured, then be forced to live the life of a vegetable in a maximum security facility fit for Hannibal Lechter from Silence of The Lambs. Or coming to my mind as an unwanted and surreptitious prophecy of what’s imminently to come, by way of ghostly mirages of the decrepit lunatic-zombies of Martin Scorses’s frightening film, Shutter Island, a gun-fight to the death. Yea, I have a bad feeling (to say the least) about the ending. Surrendering without a fight is most unlikely.