To help with its search for a missing murder suspect, Mendocino County law enforcement turned to one of El Dorado County’s finest — and furriest.
Hangtown Hank, the beloved Placerville Police Department’s bloodhound, was called upon by the Mendocino County Sheriff’s Department to aid in the large-scale manhunt for Aaron Bassler.
Bassler, 35, is accused of shooting to death Fort Bragg City Councilman Jere Melo, 45.
Melo, who served as Fort Bragg mayor from 2000 to 2004, was slain on a remote, rugged piece of property a few miles east of Fort Bragg on Aug. 27 while investigating a possible marijuana grow.
As a contract manager for a timber company, Melo would often respond to reported marijuana grows.
Bassler has also been linked to the death of Mendocino Land Trust manager Matthew Coleman, 45, according to the Santa Rosa Press Democrat.
Coleman’s body was discovered Aug. 11, also on a remote piece of property, the paper reports.
Both men were shot with high-caliber rifles, according to Mendocino County officials.
Hangtown Hank, along with Placerville Police Sgt. John Kunkle, responded to the search last week, said Placerville Police Capt. Mike Scott.
With the help of his trusty bloodhound, Kunkle led various SWAT teams on searches through the Redwood National Forest for two days, said Scott.
Scott told the Mountain Democrat that the department has a sense of obligation to help its fellow law enforcement agencies.
“It’s part of the job with Hank, to not only provide a service for the community, but for anywhere else that might need him,” said Scott. “Kunkle and Hank will travel.”
As of press time, both Hank and Kunkle were back in El Dorado County. But the manhunt continued in earnest. According to the Press Democrat, there are currently between 30 and 50 local, state and federal law enforcement officials searching for Bassler.
Bassler has reportedly been living in the woods near Fort Bragg for more than four months, following his release from jail for drunken driving.
Bassler’s family members have previously told media outlets that Bassler is mentally ill but has refused treatment in the past.
E-mail Jim Ratajczak at email@example.com or call 530-344-5069.