Nation & World

Crowd jeers at Eric Frein as he's taken to jail in state trooper killing

The group of 13 U.S. Marshals were mid-way through their latest 12-hour Eric Frein search shift Thursday night in the heart of the Pocono Mountains when they spotted a black hat standing out above tall grass in a field at an abandoned resort.

Confronted and asked for his name, the man who became one of the FBI's most wanted fugitives identified himself as Eric Frein, according to U.S. Marshals Scott Malkowski and Scott Kimball, two of the men involved in the capture of the man accused of killing one state trooper and wounding another.


Frein, 31, gave up without a fight, injuring his nose as he was taken to the ground and ending a tension and fear-filled 48-day stretch that had the tourist region on edge.

After surviving in the Poconos wilderness for 1 1/2 months and eluding hundreds of police officers on his trail, Frein was limited to the space of a Pike County prison cell Friday, hours after his capture at the abandoned Birchwood Resort near Tannersville, Monroe County.


The accused state trooper killer, looking bedraggled with facial cuts and scrapes, was taken to the prison, without bail, on murder and related charges in connection with the Sept. 12 ambush sniper attack at the Blooming Grove state police barracks.

Kimball and Malkowski said it was the first time the Birchwood property had been searched.

Frein's arrival at the Pike County Courthouse in Milford for his formal arraignment, hours after his capture, drew jeers from onlookers.

"Are you sorry?" one person yelled out. "Do you feel bad those little boys don't have a father?" said another.

Those gathered cheered when armored vehicles arrived at the courthouse, with nearby neighbors opening their windows and rushing to their porches to see the captured fugitive.

"He's captured," said Ellen Geis of Hawley, adding that she was showing her support for state police. "And the community can breathe a big sight of relief."

Frein, who remained stone-faced and silent, was told to "rot in hell" and "die" as a police vehicle drove him away from the courthouse.

"It's a sigh of relief for the community," Pike County Sheriff Philip Bueki said, adding that the manhunt took toll on the region. Now, he said, life can go back to how it was, starting with children running around in their costumes Friday night for Halloween.


The Thursday night capture of Frein, near an abandoned airplane hangar at the Birchwood Resort Airpark in Pocono Township, ended a 11/2-month search in a concentrated areas of the Pocono Mountains and the longest, continuous operation in the 109-year history of the Pennsylvania State Police. Frein's capture occurred about 40 miles from where the shooting took place.

Frein is being held in Pike County Prison without bail. Authorities have already said they will be seeking the death penalty. Photographs of him showed a large cut on the bridge of his nose and bruises on his cheek, forehead and left eye.

Authorities said those injuries occurred while Frein was on the run in the densely wooded forests of the Pocono Mountains.

6ABC in Philadelphia reported Friday that Frein confessed to the shootings and that the suspected murder weapon was found in an airplane hanger near where Frein was found. The news station said bomb squads searched the hangar.

Frein was named as the lone suspect in the ambush killing of Cpl. Bryon Dickson and Trooper Alex Douglass four days after they were shot outside their Blooming Grove barracks in Pike County on Sept. 12. State police identified Frein after finding his SUV abandoned about three miles north of the barracks on an unpaved road stuck in a muddy ditch.

Dickson's mother expressed relief at the capture.


"It doesn't change our circumstances," Darla Dickson told the Scranton-Times Tribune. "It just changes how we'll view the next few days with some relief in our hearts."

"It hurts that Bryon is gone, but there's a great hope and peace with us," she added. "Man didn't give it, and man can't take it away."

The investigation is not over.

"We have now started to find answers on behalf of the families of Cpl. Dickson, Trooper Douglas and the entire Pennsylvania state police family," Pike County District Attorney Ray Tonkin said. "They have suffered an unimaginable harm of unspeakable proportions. They will never be the same."

Speaking outside the Pike County Courthouse, Lt. Col. George Bivens said state police will continue gathering evidence. He said police would not discuss a possible motive.

Frein made statements to police after his capture, Bivens said, but police are not disclosing what he said.


Frein, a 31-year-old survivalist who participated in military re-enactments and Airsoft war games, had been hunted by law enforcement agencies from throughout Pennsylvania in a concentrated area surrounding his parent's home in the Canadensis section of Barrett Township.

Bivens said the marshals located Frein, unarmed, outside the hangar at about 6 p.m. Thursday during a routine sweep of the area. Since the search began, state police and other police agencies from across the state and nation have systematically searched abandoned cabins, resorts and anywhere.

Frein was able to find food in those shelters, and in some cases, had supplies hidden, Bivens said.

Bivens said weapons were found in the hanger where Frein was hiding, but that Frein did not have any weapons in his possession. Additional evidence is being collected.

Martin Pane, U.S. Marshal for the Middle District of Pennsylvania said there were 13 officers in the Elite Special Operations Group that took Frein down. They were wearing body armor and carrying tactical gear. Very little time elapsed between when they spotted Frein outside the hangar and when they apprehended him.

"It is my professional opinion that Mr. Frein was completely caught off guard," Pane said.


Pane said that the marshals ordered Frein to the ground and he complied. Asked him for his name and he gave it willingly. Pane would not say if Frein made any other statements to the marshals.

Pane said Frein appeared healthy but dirty.

"Look, he's been on the run for 48 days and, like anyone would, he needed a shower. But he did not request any medical attention."

Bryant Semenza, Chief Deputy Berks County Sheriff who is retired from the U.S. Marshal Service, said he was not surprised to hear that it was marshals who made the arrest. He said they have a high level of training and specialize in fugitive hunts.

"They're more than a SWAT team," Semenza said. "They do really heavy missions."

Semenza has been following the Frein case closely and his office's K-9 unit traveled to the Poconos several times during the 48-day search.


"I can guarantee that they took their time, so that they could do it safely," he said "This was a tight tactical operation. They identified their target, set up a perimeter and went in quietly. You don't want to rush something like this, and there's no need to."

As for the reward money totaling $175,000 for information leading to Frein's capture, the FBI said Friday that it had not yet determined whether anyone is eligible for that money.

Frein's arraignment, a formal reading of charges normally held at a local magisterial district office, was moved to the courthouse to accommodate the expected gathering of news reporters and photographers.

Charges against Frein include first degree homicide, two counts of attempted homicide, homicide of a law enforcement officer, attempted homicide of a law enforcement officer, assault of a law enforcement officer, discharge of a firearm into an occupied building, possession of an instrument of crime, recklessly endangering another person, and two counts of possession of weapons of mass destruction.

No motive has been established in the shooting other than that Frein wanted to test his survival and war game skills for real. A diary state police found in the woods belonging to Frein described the shooting in cold-blooded detail, according to state police.

Frein's capture marked the end of a round-the-clock manhunt involving as many as 1,000 officers. The operation cost in excess of $1 million per week. The state has not yet released information on the precise cost of the manpower and equipment used. Among the agencies involved since Sept. 12 were the FBI, the federal Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives, the U.S. Marshal's office, municipal police officers and out-of-state law enforcement officers.


State records show the manhunt appeared to have a significant impact on other day-to-day work done by state troopers.

The 57,884 traffic tickets, summary offense citations and criminal cases filed by Pennsylvania State Police in September were 15 percent less than the 68,306 a year before -- and fewer than in any of the last five Septembers.

The number of just the traffic tickets issued by state police in September, which included the first 18 days of the search, dropped 22 percent statewide compared with September 2013, according to data obtained by The Morning Call from the Administrative Office of Pennsylvania Courts.

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