A councilman from Fort Bragg, Calif., was shot and killed while he was investigating a marijuana-growing operation, authorities said.

The killing of Jere Melo, a member of the Fort Bragg City Council since 1996, on Saturday in a rugged area near the Noyo River has shocked the small city, Mayor Dave Turner said.

Jere is probably the hardest-working councilman ever, Turner said. He's a guy that gets along with everybody. He brought civility to the council.

According to initial reports from the SWAT team investigating the case, Aaron Bassler, a transient from Fort Bragg who is in his 30s, is a suspect. Bassler has had some skirmishes with the police over the years, Turner said.

Melo moved to the Northern California coast, a major marijuana growing area, in the 1960s and worked as a private security contractor for a timber company. After receiving a report of a growing operation, Melo went with another man to investigate. Turner said someone who appeared to have been guarding the operation jumped up and opened fire.

The man who accompanied Melo escaped and called authorities on his cell phone.

Melo and his wife, Madeleine, had two children, Turner said.