Frein texted friend “all is good” hours before ambush

Photo: AP, License: N/AThe Times Tribune – by TERRIE MORGAN-BESECKER

Suspected gunman Eric Matthew Frein texted a friend “all is good” just hours before police say he ambushed two troopers outside the Blooming Grove barracks, according to a search warrant affidavit.

“I stayed at your place last night,” read the text received by Mr. Frein’s longtime friend, Justin Smith. “I met your aunt. She was showing upstairs to someone.”

The message, received at around 6:15 p.m. on Sept. 12, went on to say Mr. Frein was “heading back to Delaware” and that he would be back next week.  

It was, police say, a lie. In reality, authorities say Mr. Frein, 31, a self-described survivalist, headed to the woods outside the state police barracks where, 4½ hours later,he opened fire, killing Cpl. Bryon K. Dickson II of Dunmore and wounding Trooper Alex T. Douglass of Olyphant.

Three weeks later, he remains at large. Police believe he is hiding in the woods near the Monroe County home he shared with his parents at 308 Seneca Lane in Canadensis.

Mr. Smith, of 135 Ridgeway St., East Stroudsburg, was interviewed by police on Sept. 16, about 36 hours after Mr. Frein was identified as a suspect based on the discovery of his parents’ Jeep found partially submerged in a retaining pond near the Pike County barracks.

Police obtained a search warrant for Mr. Smith’s apartment, which he rented from his aunt and uncle, and recovered several boxes of ammunition and 10 dirty gun cleaning patches, according to a copy of a search warrant return obtained by The Times-Tribune on Friday. They also seized Mr. Smith’s cellphone.

Mr. Smith told police he was Mr. Frein’s only friend. The men, who shared a passion for military re-enactments, knew each other since they were teenagers. He said he last saw Mr. Frein, who had a key to his home, on his couch on Sept. 1, when Mr. Smith left to work on a film in Virginia.

Jeremiah D. Hornbaker, whose company provides props and set dressing for historical films, confirmed Friday that Mr. Smith has been working with him on a Western-type project in Virginia. Mr. Frein worked with Mr. Hornbaker’s company in 2009, on a World War I documentary.

Mr. Hornbaker said Mr. Smith called him from East Stroudsburg on the Monday after the Blooming Grove ambush and told him police were “sacking my house.”

“Literally, he drove back there on Sunday and woke up Monday morning to insanity,” Mr. Hornbaker said.

He said Mr. Smith, on the advice of his attorney, is not granting interviews to the media. “He’s asked not to be bothered,” Mr. Hornbaker said.

Police confirmed Mr. Smith was in Virginia on the day of the shooting, according to the affidavit.

Trooper Tom Kelly, spokesman for the state police, on Friday said he could not comment on how police became aware of the relationship between Mr. Smith and Mr. Frein. He said Mr. Smith is cooperating with the investigation, but he could not comment on whether or not he has been cleared of any involvement in the case.

The affidavit does not state why Mr. Frein said he was going to Delaware. Police previously said they believe Mr. Frein falsely told relatives and other people he was working in Delaware so he could prepare for the ambush.

Mr. Smith and Mr. Frein knew each other through Istocni Vuk, a group of military enthusiasts who portray Serbian Army soldiers and take part in military simulation competitions, known as MilSim. Participants use real or authentic-looking uniforms and weapons to recreate battles.

Mr. Smith’s name was mentioned in court records related to Mr. Frein’s 2005 arrest on charges he stole clothing from a vendor at a Sept. 11, 2004 military re-enactment in Odessa, New York.

In a written statement, Darren Thorne, a witness in that case, noted the Mr. Frein was good friends with Mr. Smith, and that Mr. Smith “had a grudge” against the organizer of the event, Scott Thompson. Attempts to reach Mr. Thorne and Mr. Thompson for comment were unsuccessful.

Schuyler County Assistant District Attorney Matthew Hayden, who prosecuted Mr. Frein, said authorities were working on the theory that Mr. Frein stole from the event as a way to avenge Mr. Smith, who had been kicked out of a 2002 military re-enactment in Odessa, New York, that was also organized by Mr. Thompson. Mr. Hayden said Mr. Frein attended the 2002 event with Mr. Thorne and Mr. Smith.

“We believe Frein was exacting a degree of revenge on behalf of Justin Smith,” Mr. Hayden said. “Justin Smith was kicked out of the venue because he boasted to people he was planning to get into the event without paying and because he disrupted some maneuvers.”

Neither Mr. Smith nor Mr. Thorne were called as witnesses because Mr. Frein opted to plead guilty to a charge of possession of stolen property.

David Singleton, staff writer, contributed to this story.

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8 thoughts on “Frein texted friend “all is good” hours before ambush

  1. Hundreds or even maybe thousands against one man not to mention the resources at their disposal and they still don’t have him. That does show proof positive how weak they really are.The Boston fiasco was 2 against 9000 and even then it was a citizen that pointed him out and after a few hundred rounds in the boat they even missed that. The part that really upsets the law is how it points out how effective that they really are not,even in a gang devoted to one thing,the word embarrassed comes to mind. meanwhile the police state continues to grow because now they are shown as being weak. Is this a bad time to bring up the secret service too?

  2. “He said Mr. Smith, on the advice of his attorney, is not granting interviews to the media. “He’s asked not to be bothered,” Mr. Hornbaker said.”

    Waiting for the ‘Big Money’ to come calling.

  3. Notice where this story leads you by the nose. It says “they found 10 dirty gun patches” and “he wears military uniforms” and “he’s a survivalist”. Translation? If you clean your gun and go camping and fishing on weekends then you must be a cop shooting terrorist. So we are taking your guns. One more thing. It’s been my experience (over 50 years of living) that men do not just shoot someone unless they have a good reason. I can not say the same for young urban black men or white teens on anti depressants.

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