BLOOMING GROVE, Pa. (AP) — Hundreds of law enforcement officers fanned out across the dense northeastern Pennsylvania woods Tuesday in the hunt for a heavily armed survivalist suspected of ambushing two troopers as part of a deadly vendetta against police.
Eric Matthew Frein, 31, of Canadensis, is “extremely dangerous” and residents in the area should be alert and cautious, State Police Commissioner Frank Noonan said at a news conference in which he revealed the suspect’s name.
“He has made statements about wanting to kill law enforcement officers and also to commit mass acts of murder,” Noonan said. “What his reasons are, we don’t know. But he has very strong feelings about law enforcement and seems to be very angry with a lot of things that go on in our society.”
Frein was charged Tuesday with first-degree murder, homicide of a law enforcement officer and other offenses. About 200 law enforcement officials were combing the rural area of northeastern Pennsylvania marked by dense forest, but “we have no idea where he is,” Noonan said.
Police found a U.S. Army manual called “Sniper Training and Employment” in the suspect’s 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,” according to a police affidavit released Tuesday.
The gunman killed Cpl. Bryon Dickson, 38, and critically wounded Trooper Alex Douglass outside the barracks during a Friday night shift change, then slipped away.
Authorities were led to Frein after a resident who was walking his dog in a wooded area two miles from the barracks Monday spotted a 2001 Jeep partly submerged in a pond and called 911. Police found shell casings inside the vehicle that matched those found at the shooting scene, Noonan said.
Investigators also found Frein’s driver’s license, Social Security card, a Pennsylvania Game Commission range permit, camouflage face paint, a black hooded sweatshirt, two empty rifle cases, military gear and information about foreign embassies, according to court documents.
Frein has held anti-law enforcement views for many years and has expressed them both online and to people who knew him, Lt. Col. George Bivens said.
“This was not unexpected,” Bivens said. “As we’ve interviewed a number of people, that’s been the common theme. This was not a surprise.”
Frein’s father, Michael Frein, who spent 28 years in the Army, told police that two weapons were missing from the home — an AK-47 and a .308 rifle with a scope, according to the police affidavit.
Two state police troopers armed with rifles stood in the driveway of the home, a well-kept two-story in a private community, and several cars were parked there Tuesday afternoon.
With the gunman still on the loose, residents were jittery. Rich Turner, 52, who lives around the corner, said school buses avoided the neighborhood Tuesday, with parents directed to take their kids to school and to pick them up.
“Everybody’s wondering if he’s still out there. Everyone’s on edge, to a degree,” said Turner, who didn’t know Eric Frein but said he had dealings with his mother, who headed the community association.
Court documents filed Tuesday revealed some of the first details about the ambush. According to the documents:
Dickson was shot as soon as he walked out the front door of the barracks. A communications officer heard the shot, saw Dickson on the ground and asked him what had happened. Dickson told her he’d been hit and asked her to bring him inside — but the gunman had squeezed off another round, forcing his would-be rescuer inside.
Douglass, meanwhile, had just arrived at the barracks and was shot in the pelvis as he walked toward Dickson. Douglass managed to crawl into the lobby, where another trooper brought him into a secure area of the barracks.
About 90 seconds elapsed between the first shot and the fourth and final one.
Douglass later underwent surgery at a hospital. Dickson died at the scene. A coroner said he had been shot twice.
Rubinkam reported from northeastern Pennsylvania.
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