Roger Coleman talks about his son Matthew Coleman, a nature...

Roger Coleman talks about his son Matthew Coleman, a nature lover and environmentalist who was shot and killed Aug. 11 in a remote area near Westport, Calif. (Sept. 28, 2011) Credit: Newsday/Alejandra Villa

A Levittown father said last night that he's relieved that his son's alleged killer is no longer a danger to others after law enforcement officers shot and killed him Saturday outside the city of Fort Bragg in Northern California.

"It won't bring my son back," said Roger Coleman, whose son, Matthew Coleman, 45, was shot to death in Mendocino County last month. "I'm just happy that this person has disappeared from the area."

Police believe Aaron Bassler, 35, shot Coleman on Aug. 11.

Police said Bassler also killed Jere Melo, a city councilman from Fort Bragg.

Coleman and Melo, who was found Aug. 27, were killed in the woods about four hours north of San Francisco.

Roger Coleman said a detective contacted his daughter, Jeanne, 47, of Fort Bragg, to tell her that Bassler was dead.

"It's a relief. She was having trouble sleeping at night," Roger Coleman said.

Matthew Coleman grew up in Wantagh and attended Beech Tree Elementary and Wantagh High School.

He was a land steward and volunteer coordinator for the Mendocino Land Trust and was doing maintenance on a piece of property in Cape Vizcaino when he was shot, said Winston Bowen, president of the trust, which seeks to preserve natural resources.

"I don't know why he got killed," Roger Coleman said. "He was by himself and this guy blew him away."

Coleman's girlfriend and partner contacted Bowen's office after he didn't return home. Friends who went looking for him and found his body next to his car initially thought he had been attacked by a bear, Bowen said. Officials determined days later he had been shot several times.

Melo, who worked as a security consultant for a timber company, had been investigating reports of an illegal marijuana farm when Bassler ambushed him, authorities told The Associated Press.

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

DNA evidence linked Bassler to both crimes, said Mike McCloud, supervisor and criminal investigator for the U.S. Marshal's Office.

Special operations and tactical groups scoured about 400 square miles of hills and ravines looking for Bassler.

Authorities had said he was familiar with the area.

"He's been in the woods since he was 5," McCloud said. "He's had 30 years to play in his backyard."

On Thursday, Bassler exchanged gunfire with sheriff's deputies but got away, the AP said.

Authorities noticed he was dressed in black and had a high-powered rifle that was the same weapon he is accused of using to kill Melo.

About 200 people attended a memorial service for Matthew Coleman last month on the Big River Estuary in Mendocino County.

People brought candles, stones, rocks and bread, said his mother, Judy Gifford, 73, of Schnecksville, Pa. "All of them came with their love for Matthew and the environment."

Matthew Coleman attended SUNY New Paltz, where he received a bachelor's degree in journalism.

After a couple of stints at small newspapers in Pennsylvania, he decided to follow his sister Jeanne to California in the late 1990s, his father said.

"Matt took to working the environment like a duck takes to water," his mother said.

Though father and son had grown apart, Roger Coleman was hoping to get closer to his son as they grew older.

"I would've liked to see a marriage. . . . a closer relationship with him," Coleman said.

Wantagh resident Tom Gannon, who grew up with Matthew Coleman and remained close to him, said his friend seemed content with his life.

"He mapped out what he wanted to do and he followed it," said Gannon, adding that his friend loved literature and the environment.

He said the two were active in a youth group at Christ Lutheran Church in Wantagh, going on camping trips and always having a great time together.

"I don't think he would have changed a thing, even if he knew what his outcome would be at 45," Gannon said.

Another memorial service for Matthew Coleman is scheduled for Nov. 6 at 2 p.m. at Christ Lutheran.

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