Manhunt ends for cop ambush suspect
Milford, Pa. — Onlookers shouted "Are you sorry?" and "Why did you do it?" as a gaunt and battered-looking Eric Frein — the survivalist suspected in the ambush slaying of a Pennsylvania state trooper — was led from court Friday, the morning after his capture ended a grueling seven-week manhunt.
Frein, 31, had a bloody gash on the bridge of his nose and a scrape over his left eye as he answered a judge's yes-or-no questions and listened to the complaint detailing the Sept. 12 attack that killed Cpl. Bryon Dickson and critically wounded Trooper Alex Douglass outside their state police barracks.
Frein did not have a lawyer and was not asked to enter a plea to first-degree murder and other charges, including possession of two pipe bombs discovered during the manhunt. He remained jailed without bail. A preliminary hearing was set for Nov. 12.
Pike County District Attorney Raymond Tonkin, who said he would seek the death penalty, told reporters that Frein's capture Thursday evening brought a measure of comfort to the region after an "unimaginable loss of unspeakable proportions."
"We have now started to find the answers that the community desired in this case," Tonkin said.
State Police Lt. Col. George Bivens said troopers had interviewed Frein, but Bivens would not disclose what he told them or discuss a possible motive. Authorities have said Frein had expressed anti-law enforcement views online and to people who knew him.
Frein's capture in an abandoned airplane hangar ended a 48-day dragnet that involved hundreds of law officers. They fanned out across the Pocono Mountains of northeastern Pennsylvania, searching through impenetrable woods and forbidding caves, schools and vacation homes.
In the end, Frein was captured without a shot, surrendering meekly around dusk to a team of U.S. marshals who stumbled across him some 30 miles from the barracks where he allegedly opened fire. He knelt and put his hands up when he was caught, authorities said.
Authorities placed Frein in Dickson's handcuffs and put him in Dickson's squad car for the ride back to the Blooming Grove barracks.
Frein's capture, Bivens said, "was not the result of a tip or a sighting. This was a result of ongoing pressure put on Frein by law enforcement."
Asked about Frein's wounds, Bivens said that there was no struggle with law enforcement and that Frein got hurt while he was on the run.
Bivens put the cost of the manhunt at about $10 million.
The quiet takedown of Frein ended weeks of tension and turmoil in the area, as authorities at times closed schools, canceled football games and church services and blockaded roads. Residents grew weary of hearing helicopters, while small businesses suffered mounting losses. At times, residents were ordered to stay indoors or were prevented from reaching their homes.
With Frein's capture, plans for trick-or-treating in Barrett Township were back on.
"We as a town think the kids have gone through enough," said Ralph Megliola, chairman of the township board of supervisors.
Joe Fagan, 56, of Milford, was the first in line to enter the courtroom Friday.
"To be honest, I just wanted to see what evil looked like," he said. "He had zero emotion."
State police said they didn't know whether Frein, who was unarmed but had high-powered weaponry nearby, had been using the hangar as a shelter during his seven weeks on the run. They found him wearing camouflage pants and a dark hooded sweatshirt.
"He did not just give up because he was tired," state police Commissioner Frank Noonan said. "He gave up because he was caught."
Bivens said that Frein broke into cabins and other structures for food and shelter while on the run, and that there was no evidence anyone helped him.
Dickson's family, as well as Douglass and his family, expressed "relief and gratitude" over Frein's arrest, Noonan said.
Police said they linked Frein to the ambush after a man walking his dog discovered his partly submerged SUV three days later in a swamp a few miles from the shooting scene.
Inside, investigators found shell casings matching those found at the barracks as well as Frein's driver's license, camouflage face paint, two empty rifle cases and military gear.
Helen Blackmore, who lives in nearby Cresco, was ready for things to back to normal.
"It was very crazy here. The helicopters were out all the time. Nobody was sleeping," she said. "We're very relieved."
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