Eric Frein

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Eric Matthew Frein
FBI Ten Most Wanted Fugitive
Charges Murder in the first degree
Reward $175,000 between FBI and PA Government[1]
Description
Born (1983-05-03) May 3, 1983 (age 35)
New Jersey, U.S.
Nationality American
Race White
Gender Male
Status
Convictions Guilty
Penalty Death
Added September 18, 2014
Caught October 30, 2014
Number 503
Captured

Eric Matthew Frein (born May 3, 1983) is an American domestic terrorist[2] and murderer, convicted and sentenced to death for the 2014 Pennsylvania State Police barracks attack[3] in which he shot and killed one State Trooper, and seriously injured another. A letter to his parents made it clear that he hoped to spark a revolution by his actions.[2]

After being identified as a suspect three days after the shooting, Frein was the target of an extensive manhunt before being captured on the night of October 30, 2014, at an abandoned airport 48 days after the attack.[4][5] He was convicted of the ambush in 2017 and sentenced to death.

Background[edit]

Eric Matthew Frein was born on May 3, 1983, in New Jersey. At Pocono Mountain High School in Pennsylvania, he was often a top scorer on his school's rifle team.[6] He was described by police as a "self-taught survivalist" with a grudge against law enforcement personnel.[7] An early report citing friends who said that Frein was an Eagle Scout[8] was repudiated by the CEO of the Boy Scouts of America Minsi Trails Council, where Frein had worked.[9]

He attended East Stroudsburg University for one semester.[10][11] He also attended Northampton Community College (the Bethlehem Township campus and the Monroe County campus) as a chemistry major.[12]

In 2004, Frein was charged with burglary and grand larceny after he was accused of stealing items from vendors at a World War II reenactment in Odessa, New York. He failed to attend his trial and was arrested in Pennsylvania as a fugitive from justice.[12] In lieu of $5,000 bail, Frein was held for 109 days in a county jail in New York on a felony charge before pleading guilty to a misdemeanor charge of possession of stolen property to be sentenced to time served and payment of $3,120 restitution.[13][14]

In 2008, Frein founded Istocni Vuk or "Eastern Wolf", whose Myspace page[15] pictured Frein engaged in recreational military simulations as a Serbian soldier. Though he reenacted in a variety of roles, Frein preferred to portray Serbian soldiers. Fellow reenactors believed this was not based on ideology, but the way that the ragtag look of a Yugoslavian field jacket stood out from others. Pennsylvania State Police also believe that Frein made several trips to Southeast Europe. The Eastern Wolves were one of several groups competing in "tacticals" under the umbrella organization "Red Alliance", using replica airsoft rifles with plastic BBs. Frein was viewed as a serious reenactor with a deep knowledge of history, looking down on casual participants playing "cowboys and Indians", but still having a sense of humor - for example choosing a cheaper Chinese-made replica airsoft rifle over one made in Yugoslavia.[14]

Frein's reenactment landed him several employments in the film industry. He played a non-speaking role in Lustig, a 16-minute anti-Nazi film where he portrayed a German soldier at Auschwitz. In 2009, he gave technical direction in a World War I documentary being made by Jeremiah Hornbaker, who credited him for correcting errors in the set design and later offered him several other jobs that he turned down.[14]

In July 2014, Frein told Hornbaker, friends, and parents that he was moving to Delaware to work at a chemical company. Police speculate that he might have taken this time to make the preparations that later would allow him to survive and evade capture.[14]

At the time when Dickson and Douglass were shot, Frein was living with his parents at their home in Canadensis in Barrett Township, Monroe County, Pennsylvania.[16][17][18]

Identification as a murder suspect[edit]

During a shift change late at night on September 12, 2014, outside the Trooper barracks of the Pennsylvania State Police in the Pocono Mountains in the Township of Blooming Grove, Pennsylvania, Frein opened fire with a .308-caliber rifle,[19] killing Corporal Bryon K. Dickson II, a 38-year-old Pennsylvania State Police Trooper, and critically injuring Trooper Alex Douglass.[12][14][20]

Three days after the shootings, a man walking his dog found a 2001 Jeep Cherokee partially submerged in a retaining pond or drainage basin in a swamp near the intersection of Pennsylvania Route 402 and US Route 6, about 2 miles (3.2 km) away from the crime scene.[14][20][21] The vehicle was determined to belong to Frein's parents and evidence found in the vehicle included Frein's Social Security card, information about foreign embassies, camouflage paint, and bullet casings matched to the shooting.[22] This led authorities to identify Frein as their only suspect.[19][23] On September 16, 2014, a criminal complaint against Frein was docketed in the U.S. District Court in Scranton, Pennsylvania, and the court issued an arrest warrant the next day.[24]

Authorities speculated that Frein, driving with his lights off on Pennsylvania Route 402, had failed to see a T-junction and drove into the swamp, and then may have traveled 15 to 20 miles (24 to 32 km) on foot to Canadensis, Pennsylvania, where his parents live.[25]

Manhunt[edit]

On October 1, following discovery of two pipe bombs, all hunting and trapping on public or private land and all access to state gameland was forbidden in the shaded areas.[26][27] The blue-shaded area was reopened on October 10.[28][29] The green-shaded area was reopened October 21, after two sightings of Frein in Paradise Township, while the yellow remained under the hunting/trapping ban and gameland closures.[30][31]

The police manhunt grew from nearly 200 officers by September 17[23] to 400 officers by September 22[32] to nearly 1,000 on September 24.[33] Law enforcement officers included local police, state police forces from Pennsylvania, New York, and New Jersey[34] as well as FBI, U.S. Marshals Service; and the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives.[32] Though tracking dogs were regarded as a valuable tool, particularly on damp, calm days when scent dissipates most slowly, Frein successfully evaded them using "water crossings and terrain conditions."[35][36]

Equipment included numerous police vehicles,[37] armored BearCats,[25] at least four helicopters with thermal imaging equipment, and a 13,000-pound, $245,000 Ring Power armored siege vehicle dubbed "The Rook".[22] The FBI displayed Frein's image and the number of a state police hotline (866-326-7256) using hundreds of digital billboards in Pennsylvania and five other states that are controlled by Outdoor Advertising Association of America.[37][38][39]

Police believed they saw Frein several times during the manhunt, but each time were unable to approach directly due to the rugged terrain of the area, which allowed Frein to slip away. They believed Frein was taunting them, and Lt. Colonel George Bivens told reporters, "I almost think this is a game to him."[33] A colleague from the MilSim group "Red Alliance" suggested that "If he's re-enacting anyone, it's Rambo from the very first movie," referring to the character of John Rambo in First Blood.[40] The difficulty of capturing Frein was compared to that of finding other survivalist outdoorsmen such as Eric Rudolph, Troy James Knapp, Jason McVean, and Robert William Fisher, who were able to elude police for years by special training.[41]

Local resident James Tully, who bears some resemblance to Frein and who walks to work in the area, says he was stopped more than 20 times by officers searching for Frein. He claims one officer pointed a rifle at him and forced him to the ground, leaving him with bruised ribs and in fear that he would be shot.[42][43]

Capture[edit]

Frein was captured by U.S. Marshals in an open field near an unused airport hangar at Birchwood-Pocono Airpark, an abandoned airfield[44] approximately 3 miles (4.8 km) ENE of Tannersville, on October 30, 2014, 48 days after the shooting.[45] At the time of his arrest, he was not armed,[46] but a .308-caliber rifle and a pistol were recovered.

Frein was arrested without incident.[47][48] Although he did not resist arrest, he suffered a cut to the bridge of his nose, as well as a scrape over his left eye and bruises to his cheeks and eyes.[49][50] A Pennsylvania State Police spokesman said these injuries occurred while he was on the run,[51][52] but the U.S. Marshals said this occurred while police had him down on the pavement during his arrest.[50][53] According to Scott Malkowski, one of a dozen Marshals who took down Frein, standard procedure is "Never have a fugitive look at you", and because Frein went down in a position with head up looking at the officers, they pushed him to a face-down position, causing the scrapes in the process.

Symbolically, Frein was restrained after the arrest using the handcuffs of deceased officer Bryan Dickson[54][55] and taken to the barracks where the attack occurred in the back seat of Dickson's car.[56]

Legal developments[edit]

The day after his capture, he was charged with first-degree murder and attempted murder in the shooting that killed Dickson and wounded Douglass.[57] Frein was charged with murder of the first degree, criminal attempt to commit murder of the first degree, murder of a law enforcement officer of the first degree, criminal attempt to commit murder of a law enforcement officer of the first degree, assault of a law enforcement officer, two counts of terrorism under 18 Pa C.S.A. 2717(a)2 and 3, two counts of weapons of mass destruction under 18 Pa C.S.A. 2716(a), discharging a firearm into an occupied structure, possessing instruments of crime, and recklessly endangering another person.[58][59][60] He pleaded not guilty to all charges during his video arraignment on January 29, 2015. Prosecutors said they intended to seek the death penalty.[61]

Before Frein was tried, a Pike County judge had to determine if information about a State Police internal affairs investigation involving witnesses could be released to Frein's attorneys.[62]

In June 2016, it was determined that Frein's trial would be heard by an imported jury from Chester County due to the extensive pretrial publicity in Pike County. This would be the first time that a Pike County case would be heard by a jury impaneled from another county since the 1980s.[63]

Also in June 2016, Pike County Judge Gregory Chelak denied a motion made by Frein's attorneys to bar prosecutors from seeking the death penalty in the case. Chelak rejected Frein's claim that the death penalty was unconstitutional.[64][65]

In September 2017, Trooper Bryan Dickson's widow, Tiffany Dickson, filed a lawsuit against Frein's parents alleging they missed warning signs about their son's behavior and influenced him with their constitutionalist political views.[66]

Conviction and sentence[edit]

On April 19, 2017, Frein was found guilty on all charges[67][68] and on April 26, the jury recommended the death penalty. The following day, Frein was formally sentenced to death by lethal injection.[69] Frein currently awaits execution on death row at SCI Greene, a maximum security prison in Pennsylvania.

References[edit]

  1. ^ Bounty hunters not joining Eric Frein manhunt in Pa. woods
  2. ^ a b Brelje, Beth (14 November 2014). "Letter could suggest Eric Frein's motive: Revolution". Pocono Record. Retrieved 27 April 2017. 
  3. ^ "Bryon Dickson, PA State Trooper Killed In Ambush, To Be Laid To Rest". The Huffington Post. Retrieved November 14, 2014. 
  4. ^ "FBI — ERIC MATTHEW FREIN". FBI. Retrieved November 14, 2014. 
  5. ^ "FBI adds Frein to 10 Most Wanted list". Philadelphia Inquirer. September 20, 2014. 
  6. ^ Krawczeniuk, Borys; Morgan-Besecker, Terrie (September 17, 2014). "Eric Frein a fan of guns, the military". The Patriot-News. Standard Speaker. Retrieved September 23, 2014. 
  7. ^ "Day 9 Of Manhunt For PA Barracks Shooting Suspect Eric Frein". KYW-TV. The Associated Press. September 21, 2014. 
  8. ^ "Pennsylvania State Police: Eric Frein has 'personal battle' with law enforcement". Times-Leader. September 17, 2014. 
  9. ^ Nick Falsome (September 23, 2014). "Eric Frein, alleged cop killer, worked for Boy Scouts' Minsi Trails Council, report says". Lehigh Valley Live. 
  10. ^ Chaplin, Paul (September 21, 2014). "As day 9 begins in manhunt for Eric Frein, neighbors seek answers". The Associated Press. 
  11. ^ "Police ambush suspect manhunt upends daily life". WTAE-TV. The Associated Press. September 24, 2014. 
  12. ^ a b c Ambush suspect was former Northampton Community College student, The Express-Times, September 17, 2014.
  13. ^ Eric Frein: Is reenactor waging private cold war on Pa. cops? (+video), Christian Science Monitor, September 18, 2014.
  14. ^ a b c d e f Matt Assad and Peter Hall (October 1, 2014). "No warning signs in ordinary life of trooper slaying suspect". Morning Call. 
  15. ^ "Istocni Vuk Photos on Myspace". 
  16. ^ State police swarm East Stroudsburg on Eric Frein sighting report; he isn't found, The Morning Call, September 18, 2014.
  17. ^ Peter Becker (September 20, 2014). "SATURDAY 8:35 PM: Residents allowed back; manhunt continues". Pocono Record/expanded by News Eagle. 
  18. ^ David Singleton and Terrie Morgan-Besecker (September 28, 2014). "Who is Eric Frein?". Associated Press/Lehigh Valley Live. 
  19. ^ a b The Morning Call (September 19, 2014). "After shots are reported, residents within miles of Eric Frein home ordered to get inside - The Morning Call". themorningcall.com. Retrieved November 14, 2014. 
  20. ^ a b Pennsylvania suspect in police killing belonged to 'military simulation unit', The Guardian, September 17, 2014.
  21. ^ Brendan Gibbons (September 18, 2014). "Game Commission tracking team hunting for Frein". Times-Tribune. 
  22. ^ a b Martin Gould (September 23, 2014). "Send in the Rook! Six-ton armored siege vehicle with bullet-proof platform brought in as net closes on survivalist wanted over cop's murder". Daily Mail. 
  23. ^ a b Holly Yan, Greg Botelho and Chelsea J. Carter (September 17, 2014). "Trooper shooting suspect might try to target more officers, police say". CNN. 
  24. ^ United States v. Eric Matthew Frein, case no. 3:14-mj-00086-TMB-1, U.S. District Court for the Middle District of Pennsylvania (Scranton Div.).
  25. ^ a b Scott Kraus, Manuel Gamiz Jr. and Dan Sheehan (September 23, 2014). "Eric Frein search continues, Pocono Mountain schools reopen". Morning Call. 
  26. ^ "Game Commission bans hunting in manhunt search". WFMZ-TV. October 1, 2014. 
  27. ^ "Manhunt places hunting seasons on hold". Pennsylvania State Game Commission. October 1, 2014. 
  28. ^ Dan Ratchford (October 10, 2010). "Hunting restrictions lifted in part of search area". WNEP. 
  29. ^ "Hunting seasons restored in parts of Pike County". Pennsylvania Game Commission. October 10, 2014. 
  30. ^ "Pa. lifts hunting ban in all of Pike County". The Sentinel. October 21, 2014. 
  31. ^ "Hunting seasons restored in entirety of Pike County". Pennsylvania Game Commission. October 21, 2014. 
  32. ^ a b Holly Yan (September 22, 2014). "Pennsylvania trooper killing: Who is suspect Eric Frein?". CNN. 
  33. ^ a b Rheanna Murray (September 24, 2014). "U.S. Accused Cop Killer Eric Frein Repeatedly Appears, Then Eludes Manhunt". Good Morning America/ABC News. 
  34. ^ "The hunt for Eric Frein". Pocono Record. September 28, 2014. Retrieved October 1, 2014. 
  35. ^ Mark Hiller (September 22, 2014). "Dog Trainer: Tracking Dogs a Valuable Tool in Frein Manhunt". Nexstar/PA Homepage. 
  36. ^ "State police answer questions about search for Frein". WFMZ 69. September 25, 2014. 
  37. ^ a b Joshua Kohut (September 24, 2014). "PERIMETER INTACT: Search continues for Frein". Standard-Speaker. 
  38. ^ Jim Deegan (September 19, 2014). "Digital billboards activated in manhunt for accused trooper killer Eric Matthew Frein". The Express-Times. 
  39. ^ "FBI sets up digital billboard 'wanted' posters of Eric Frein in 6 states". Pocono Record. September 19, 2014. 
  40. ^ Rheanna Murray (September 19, 2014). "U.S. Accused Cop Shooter Eric Frein Reenacting Rambo, Colleague Suggests". ABC News. 
  41. ^ Rheanna Murray (September 22, 2014). "U.S. Like Eric Frein, These Fugitive Survivalists Eluded Police Capture". ABC News. 
  42. ^ "Eric Frein lookalike: Police have stopped me repeatedly, pointed gun at me". CBS News. October 23, 2014. 
  43. ^ Kieran Corcoran (October 22, 2014). "I'm not Eric Frein - I'm his doppelganger!". Mail Online/The Daily Mail. 
  44. ^ "Accused Trooper Shooter Eric Frein in Police Custody After 48 Day Manhunt". WCAU-TV. October 30, 2014. Retrieved October 30, 2014. 
  45. ^ Ivey DeJesus (October 31, 2014). "Eric Frein surrendered to U.S. marshals, did not put up a fight, state police said". PennLive/The Patriot News. 
  46. ^ Michael Rubinkam (October 31, 2014). "Captured: Manhunt Ends for Trooper Ambush Suspect". ABC News. 
  47. ^ Dana Ford, CNN (October 30, 2014). "FBI most-wanted suspect Eric Frein in custody - CNN.com". CNN. Retrieved November 14, 2014. 
  48. ^ Winter, Tom; Johnson, M. Alex (October 30, 2014). "Authorities Capture Accused Cop Killer Eric Frein". NBCNews.com. Retrieved October 30, 2014. 
  49. ^ Debbie Truong (October 31, 2014). "Quiet, bruised Eric Frein denied bail after brief arraignment on trooper killing charges". PennLive/The Patriot News. 
  50. ^ a b Ralph Iannotti (October 31, 2014). "Community Breathes Sigh Of Relief After Frein's Capture". CBS Pittsburgh. 
  51. ^ TOM LLAMAS and RHEANA MURRAY (October 31, 2014). "Accused Cop Killer Eric Frein's Dramatic First Court Appearance After Capture". ABC News. 
  52. ^ Sasha Goldstein (October 31, 2014). "Eric Frein arraigned following capture 7 weeks after allegedly murdering Pa. state trooper". New York Daily News. 
  53. ^ Laura McCrystal and Ben Finley (October 31, 2014). "Investigator: Frein 'fully' expected capture". philly.com. 
  54. ^ "Trooper ambush suspect Eric Frein taken in handcuffs of murdered officer". Fox News. October 21, 2014. 
  55. ^ "Eric Frein Captured: Accused Cop Killer In Custody, Police Say". The Huffington Post. Retrieved November 14, 2014. 
  56. ^ Greg Botelho and Kristina Sgueglia, CNN (2014-11-02). "Accused cop killer Eric Frein's cuts came during capture, marshal says". CNN. 
  57. ^ McGraw, Seamus (31 October 2014). "Eric Frein, Suspect in Killing of Pennsylvania State Trooper, Appears in Court". The New York Times. Retrieved 31 October 2014. 
  58. ^ "Pa seeks death penalty for accused killer Eric Frein". Fox News. 2015-01-27. 
  59. ^ "Commonwealth's notice of aggravating circumstances and intent to seek the death penalty" (PDF). Office of prothonotary clerk of courts. 2015-01-27. 
  60. ^ For explanation of terrorism, see "2717. Terrorism". Pennsylvania legislature. . For mass destruction, see "2616. Weapons of mass destruction". Pennsylvania legislature. 
  61. ^ Julia Talanova (January 30, 2015). "Eric Frein pleads not guilty in state trooper's death". CNN. 
  62. ^ Jim Hamill (September 29, 2015). "Internal Investigation Adds Wrinkle to Eric Frein Case". WNEP16. 
  63. ^ Peter Becker, Imported jury to hear Frein case in Pike County, News Eagle (June 13, 2016).
  64. ^ Terrie Morgan-Besecker, Judge denies death penalty ban for Frein, Republican Herald (June 23, 2016).
  65. ^ Dan Ratchford, Motion to Throw Out Death Penalty for Frein Denied, WNEP-TV (June 22, 2016).
  66. ^ Kyle Swenson (September 27, 2017). "He grew up listening to his father's anti-police rants. A lawsuit claims it drove him to murder". The Washington Post. 
  67. ^ Eric Frein Guilty on All Charges for Killing of Pennsylvania State Trooper
  68. ^ http://www.mcall.com/news/breaking/mc-pa-eric-frein-life-or-death-verdict-20170426-story.html
  69. ^ Helsel, Phil (26 April 2017). "Eric Frein, Ambush Cop Killer, Gets Death Sentence From Pennsylvania Jury". NBC News. NBC. Retrieved 27 April 2017. 

External links[edit]