Eric Frein, suspected of killing one Pennsylvania trooper and wounding another in a September ambush, was captured Thursday after 48 days on the run, the governor and state police officials confirmed.
“Now he will face justice,” Pennsylvania Gov. Tom Corbett said.
The local district attorney immediately said he would charge Frein with murder and would seek the death penalty.
The 31-year-old Frein, who was one of the FBI’s 10-most-wanted fugitives, reportedly was armed when U.S. Marshals found him at a hanger at a small, abandoned airport in Tannersville. That’s about 35 miles from the scene of the Sept. 12 attack on the state police barracks in Blooming Grove.
State police commissioner Frank Noonan said a group of U.S. Marshals spotted him in a field near the hangar while searching the area. They ordered him to surrender and fall to his knees, Noonan said, and Frein complied.
“He was definitely surprised,” Noonan said.
“He gave up because he was caught and he had no choice but to give up,” Noonan said.
He said Frein “did not have a gun on his person” when captured.
He said when he was turned over to state police, they placed him in handfuffs belonging to the state trooper he is accused of killing, Cpl. Byron Dickson, and placed him in the trooper’s patrol car.
Pike county District Attorney Raymond Tonkin said he had filed an array of charges against Frein including first degree murder, homicide of a law enforcement officer, attempted murder, possession of weapons of mass destruction and reckless endangerment.
Noonan said Frein was in good condition and did not require medical attention: “He looked healthier than I would have expected.”
He said officials believe Frein had been in the area around the hangar for some time. He said they were seeking a search warrant for the hangar and would look for indications Frein may have been using the hangar as a hideout.
Noonan said there was no indication Frein was receiving assistance from anyone.
The airport was the old Birchwood-Pocono Airpark, which was built in the early 1960s for a local resort and closed in 1998.
Law enforcement sources told news organizations Frein surrendered peacefully.
He was photographed in the back of a state police car.
“I can confirm that we have taken Eric Frein into custody. Further information will be released at a later time,” state police spokeswoman Connie Devens said in a statement to WPVI.
The capture brought widespread relief in the Pocono Mountain communities near the search. Many had canceled Halloween observances out of fear he was on the loose. Outside the local state police station where he was taken, people waved American flags and signs thanking Pennsylvania State Police.
Frein had eluded capture in the rugged mountain woods since the Sept. 12 attack in the rural hamlet about 25 miles from the Canadensis home where he lived with his parents.
Firing from woods across from the barracks, the gunman used a high-powered rifle to kill Dickson, a 38-year-old father of two, and wound 31-year-old Trooper Alex Douglass during shift change. The exact motive for the shootings has not been announced, but Frein had voiced strong sentiments against government and law enforcement.
Authorities have said they do not believe the troopers were specifically targeted.
Frein was described as a self-trained survivalist, weapons enthusiast and expert marksman who role-played as a Serbian soldier. The FBI said he claimed to have fought with Serbians in Africa, and studied Russian and Serbian languages.
The sniper, using a .308-caliber rifle, also fired at a civilian dispatcher as she tried to aid the victims, police said. The gunman fired four shots over about a minute and a half, video surveillance indicated.
The shooter then vanished into the woods. The barracks, about 35 miles east of Scranton, not far from the borders of New York and New Jersey, sits on the edge of thousands of acres of state woodland in the Pocono Mountains.
While searching the woods, authorities also recovered two empty rifle cases, military gear, flashlights, a black hooded sweatshirt, camouflage face paint and information on foreign embassies. A week later, authorities said they found an AK-47-style weapon, ammunition and other items they believe belonged to Frein. Police also found a U.S. Army manual titled “Sniper Training and Employment” in the suspect’s bedroom at his parents’ house.The first break in the case came a few days after the shooting when a neighbor walking his dog found a Jeep Cherokee partially submerged in a swampy area. The neighbor called 911 and authorities found Frein’s driver’s license, Social Security card, gaming permit and two spent .308 shell casings, according to a state police affidavit.
In the weeks that followed, other gear, pipe bombs and ammunition linked to Frein was found. Several unconfirmed sightings were reported.
Trackers also discovered a journal — allegedly kept by Frein and found in a bag of trash at a hastily abandoned campsite — that offered a chilling account of the ambush and his subsequent escape into the woods. The journal’s author described Dickson as falling “still and quiet” after being shot twice, the last time in the head.
Amid the manhunt by about 1,000 state, federal and local officers, schools were closed, road blocks disrupted traffic and delayed movement, and residents often were ordered to shelter in place after reported sightings of the fugitive.
Police spotted a man they believed to be Frein at several points during the manhunt, but it was always from a distance, with the rugged terrain allowing him to keep them at bay. Police said he appeared to be treating the manhunt as a game.
During the search, State police Lt. Col. George Bivens had described Frein as a survivalist with strong anti-government feelings. He called him a coward.
Noonan said Frien’s violence appeared to be aimed at law enforcement in general rather than the individuals he shot.
Frein had only a minor criminal record — a decade-old misdemeanor case involving items stolen from a World War II re-enactors’ event in Upstate New York, for which he spent 109 days in jail.
He belonged to a war-simulation group modeled after Cold War-era Eastern European troops. That apparently led to a film credit: He played the “2nd German soldier” in the 2007 movie Lustig, which relates the tale of a concentration camp survivor.
Frein was a member of the Pocono Mountain High School rifle team. A police affidavit said Frein’s father, retired Maj. E. Michael Frein, served in the Army for 28 years. He told investigators that he had trained his son in marksmanship — and that his son “doesn’t miss.”
SOURCE: USA Today – Michael Winter, John Bacon and William M. Welch