Trooper ambush suspect playing ‘game’
Canadensis, Pa. — The suspected killer of a state trooper, who has eluded a massive dragnet for nearly two weeks, might be treating the manhunt in the Pennsylvania woods as a game against law enforcement, according to police.
Eric Frein, 31, appears to have purposely made himself visible at times, staying just far enough away to make it unlikely he’d be caught in the rough terrain, said state police Lt. Col George Bivens.
“I almost think that some of this is a game to him,” Bivens said Wednesday.
Upwards of 1,000 law enforcement officials have been involved in the search for Frein, who is charged with gunning down Cpl. Bryon Dickson and wounding Trooper Alex Douglass in a Sept. 12 ambush outside their barracks in Blooming Grove. Since then, Wednesday was the first time authorities have reported possibly laying eyes on the suspect, describing him as wearing black clothing and sometimes a hood.
Police found Frein’s Jeep submerged in a swamp a few miles from the barracks, and believe he walked 15 or 20 miles south to hide in the wilderness surrounding his hometown of Canadensis. He is considered armed and dangerous, and police have authority to kill him if he doesn’t surrender.
In an indication of just how wild the landscape is, tactical teams have “kicked out quite a few bears” as they searched for Frein in caves, Bivens said. Police have also obtained search warrants to search vacant homes, using locksmiths to gain access.
Officers have found items they say Frein either stashed or left behind, including an assault rifle, ammunition, empty packs of Serbian-branded cigarettes and soiled diapers. Frein, described as a self-taught survivalist, might be using the diapers to remain stationary for long periods of time, Bivens said. Police are testing the diapers to confirm Frein wore them.
The developments come as the American Civil Liberties Union and other lawyers have questioned law enforcement tactics that have given some local residents only sporadic access to their homes.
Attorney Joshua Prince of Bechtelsville told The Associated Press on Wednesday that one resident told him he was kept away from his house for days, and returned home Tuesday night to find his dogs had defecated all over the property.
“There is no general blanket allowance for setting the Constitution aside because the Pennsylvania State Police and the FBI are doing an investigation or manhunt,” Prince said.
Bivens said troopers are “doing their best to balance safety concerns with the needs for residents to be able to travel freely to and from their homes.”
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