Trooper ambush suspect is captured

Published: Friday 31st October 2014 by The News Editor

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A survivalist accused of ambushing two Pennsylvania state troopers, killing one and seriously wounding the other, was captured by US marshals.

The arrest in an abandoned aeroplane hangar ended a seven-week manhunt that had rattled the nerves of residents of the US state.

The apparently quiet capture of Eric Frein ended weeks of tension and turmoil in the area, as authorities at times closed schools, cancelled outdoor events and blockaded roads to pursue him.

Residents grew weary of hearing helicopters overhead, while small businesses suffered mounting losses and town supervisors cancelled a popular Halloween parade.

State police confirmed Frein was taken into custody but released no details.

Two law enforcement officials said Frein was captured in the hangar. A federal law enforcement official in Washington said Frein was armed when he was captured.

Frein is charged with opening fire outside the Blooming Grove barracks on September 12, killing Corporal Bryon Dickson and seriously wounding another trooper.

Police said they linked him to the ambush after a man walking his dog discovered his partly submerged vehicle three days later in a swamp a few miles from the shooting scene.

Inside, investigators found shell casings matching those found at barracks as well as Frein’s driver’s licence, camouflage face paint, two empty rifle cases and military gear.

Officials, saying Frein was armed and extremely dangerous, had closed schools and urged residents to be alert and cautious.

Using dogs, thermal imaging technology and other tools, law enforcement officials combed miles of forest as they hunted for Frein, whom they called an experienced survivalist at home in the woods.

They pursued countless tips and closed in on an area around Frein’s parents’ home in Canadensis after he used his mobile phone to try contacting them and the signal was traced to a location about 3 miles away.

At times police ordered nearby residents to stay inside or prevented them from returning home.

Trackers found items they believe Frein hid or abandoned in the woods – including soiled nappies, empty packs of Serbian cigarettes, an AK-47-style assault rifle and ammunition and two pipe bombs that were functional and capable of causing significant damage.

They also discovered a journal, allegedly kept by Frein and found in a bag of rubbish at a hastily abandoned campsite, that offered a chilling account of the ambush and his subsequent escape into the woods.

The journal’s author described Dickson as falling “still and quiet” after being shot twice.

Police spotted a man they believed to be Frein at several points during the manhunt, but it was always from a distance, with the rugged terrain allowing him to keep them at bay. Police said he appeared to be treating the manhunt as a game.

Frein had expressed anti-law enforcement views online and to people who knew him.

His criminal record appeared limited to a decade-old case involving items stolen from a Second World War re-enactors event in New York state, for which he spent 109 days in jail.

Police found a US Army manual called Sniper Training And Employment in his bedroom at his parents’ house, and his father, a retired Army major, told authorities that his son is an excellent marksman who “doesn’t miss”.

The authorities believe he had been planning a confrontation with police for years, citing information they found on a computer used by him.

Frein belonged to a military re-enactors group, playing the part of a Serbian solder. He had a small role in a 2007 movie about a concentration camp survivor and helped with props and historical references on a documentary about the First World War.

The FBI named him to its 10 most wanted list.

His 18-year-old sister, Tiffany Frein, earlier acknowledged that he “did something messed up” but told NBC News that he is “not a psycho”.

Frein is charged with first-degree murder and various other offences, including two counts of possession of weapons of mass destruction filed after police discovered the pipe bombs.

Cpl Dickson, at his funeral, was called a devoted husband and father and “impeccable” ex-Marine who took his work seriously but also enjoyed making wooden toys for his young sons and finding humour in everyday situations.

Trooper Alex Douglass was shot in the pelvis and critically injured in the ambush, which took place during a late-night shift change.

He remained in hospital until October 16, when he was discharged to a rehabilitation facility.

“If you attack troopers, and a civilised society, the Pennsylvania State Police will bring you to justice. Eric Frein is a coward,” the Pennsylvania State Troopers Association said in a statement.

“Cpl Bryon K Dickson II and Trooper Alex T Douglass are true heroes.”

Published: Friday 31st October 2014 by The News Editor

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