Suspect ordered to stand trial in ambush on state troopers
MILFORD, Pa. (AP) A judge on Monday ordered a self-taught survivalist to stand trial on charges he fatally shot a Pennsylvania state trooper and wounded another during an ambush at their barracks.
The ruling came after a daylong preliminary hearing for Eric Frein, 31, during which Pike County prosecutors showed surveillance video of the mortally wounded trooper crumpling to the ground; a bullet striking a comrade kneeling by his side; and the comrade, his legs immobilized by the gunfire, crawling into the lobby on his stomach.
After allegedly killing Cpl. Bryon Dickson and wounding Trooper Alex Douglass outside the rural barracks in Blooming Grove, Frein led authorities on a 48-day manhunt through the Pocono woods before marshals captured him at an abandoned airplane hangar.
One trooper testified Monday that bullets from the Sept. 12 ambush came from Frein's rifle, which was recovered at the hangar.
Prosecutors are seeking the death penalty. Frein's defense attorney called no witnesses and offered no evidence.
Frein, whose hands and feet were shackled, sat quiet and still through the morning session in a cavernous courtroom packed with media and other spectators. At one point, he wrote a note and whispered into his attorney's ear.
Authorities say Frein confessed to what he described as an assassination designed to "wake people up" and result in a change in government.
Frein was identified as a suspect shortly after the shootings when a passer-by found his vehicle partially submerged in a small pond near the barracks.
The manhunt, with drew a large police force to the rural area, frightened residents as there were numerous reported sightings of Frein, an expert marksman. A team of federal marshals performing a systematic search stumbled across him about 30 miles from the scene of the shooting and were able to arrest him.
Trooper Sean Doran, an evidence technician, testified that he found Frein's checkbook and two explosive devices in a backpack at a wooded campsite near Canadensis. Troopers also found three crumpled, wet pieces of notebook paper in a garbage bag at the campsite that authorities say bore Frein's handwriting and described the ambush in detail.
"Got a shot around 11 p.m. and took it," one entry said. "He was still and quiet."
John Schaaf, a deputy with the U.S. Marshals Service, described how he and two other deputies found Frein at the abandoned airfield on Oct. 30 and took him into custody. He said another marshal first spotted Frein, ordered him to put his hands up and asked him his name.
Frein got onto his knees and told them who he was. Schaaf said he handcuffed Frein and searched him, finding a pocketknife but no other weapons. He said he also spotted a green nylon cord attached to "different metal devices."
"I immediately thought he had explosives on him," Schaaf said. But it turned out to be Frein's suspenders.
He said Frein asked him, "Can I tell you where the guns are in the hangar?" adding, "I don't want a kid to find the guns." He said two rifles were upstairs in the hangar and a loaded pistol was downstairs.
Frein was shackled with Dickson's handcuffs and driven to the police station in Dickson's squad car.
Dickson's widow attended the hearing.