Manhunt for Pennsylvania trooper shooting suspect escalates near state forest

Pittsburgh Post Gazette – by Laura McCrystal / The Philadelphia Inquirer

PRICE TOWNSHIP, Pa. – State troopers perched on rocks and leaned on trees, eyes fixed on the dense woods in front of them.

Police cruisers lined the unpaved roads.

White vans, unmarked SUVs, and armored vehicles sat ready near a pond.  

The hunt for alleged state trooper killer Eric Frein was narrowed Sunday to a rural Snow Hill Falls neighborhood bordering a state forest in Monroe County, where residents were once again advised not to leave home.

Police said the search for Frein, a self-styled survivalist who has evaded capture in the Poconos for more than two weeks, was centered on the neighborhood.

“We have a large presence there, but it certainly isn’t the only area we are taking a look at,” Trooper Adam Reed said. “We still believe he is in the area.”

Modest houses along the winding dirt roads sit on densely wooded lots of several acres.

Helicopters hovered so low over Pat Snively’s home large trees swayed in the wind and she could see the faces of the pilots.

“It looked like Black Hawk Down, those helicopters,” she said.

Ms. Snively and her neighbors lost power for several hours Saturday evening. PPL Electric reported more than 70 customers lost power in the area; state police could not confirm the outage was caused by downdrafts from the helicopters.

Ms. Snively said her grandchildren were playing in her backyard Saturday afternoon when an armed trooper in camouflage appeared and signaled to her son.

The trooper advised taking the children inside — and keeping them there. A person believed to be Mr. Frein had just been spotted in the woods behind their home, the trooper said, but he had run away.

They went inside, and the helicopters began hovering over their backyard.

“I don’t mind as long as they catch him,” Ms. Snively said.

Police said they could not provide information about possible sightings. On Friday, investigators said Frein had not been spotted in the woods since Tuesday evening.

Mr. Frein, 31, is charged with killing Cpl. Bryon Dickson and wounding Trooper Alex Douglass at the state police barracks in Blooming Grove on Sept. 12. Police said Frein was likely in a roughly five-square mile area near his parents’ home, about 20 miles from Blooming Grove.

When Gladys Rivera left her home on Snow Hill Falls Road for church Sunday morning, police stopped her and searched her pickup. All day, police cars sat on either side of her house. She said she was now accustomed to their presence but worries about what would happen if police confronted Frein in her neighborhood.

Police believe Frein is still armed with the .308-caliber rifle with which the troopers were shot. State troopers would be authorized to use lethal force if they identified Frein and he refused to surrender.

“That’s what’s scary, is there might be a shootout,” Ms. Rivera said.

Rob Heist said he was recovering Sunday from the shock of losing power the previous night. He was stopped by police as he rushed home to his wife, who has dementia and was sitting alone in the dark.

“I became unglued last night when I got home,” he said Sunday as about eight troopers walked around his yard and on his deck. “I was just like, this is unbelievable.”

As the search intensified in Mr. Heist’s neighborhood, other Monroe County residents tried to ease back into daily routines.

Police vehicles were hardly visible outside the focus area. The roads were filled with motorcyclists enjoying the sunny fall day. The Pocono Mountain School District announced that most school bus routes were scheduled to resume Monday morning, and that absences or missed assignments would no longer be excused.

At the Mountainhome Diner on Sunday afternoon, Esther Bender sat at the counter reading a book while she ate. Last weekend, investigators sat on her property. On Sunday, she said she had not seen any state troopers in her neighborhood.

“I’m not really nervous,” she said as she finished her toast and bacon. “It will play out the way it’s supposed to play out, I guess.”

The search remained a topic of conversation for residents, however. In the small community, most people have friends or relatives affected by the manhunt, and many said they knew the Frein family.

“It is heartbreaking for them as well,” Ms. Bender said, adding that she often saw Mr. Frein’s parents around town but did not know them well.

Police said Frein plotted his attack and retreat into the Poconos for years. Investigators believe he may have constructed a bunker in the woods to store supplies and evade police. He has left behind items such as soiled diapers and Serbian cigarettes, police said, and he may have explosives.

Nearly 1,000 law enforcement officers have descended on the woods. Ms. Rivera, whose home was in the center of the search on Sunday, said she never imagined a manhunt could unfold in her own backyard.

“Nothing ever happens here,” she said. “It’s too super-quiet. It’s rural here – we don’t even have paved roads where we live.”

2 thoughts on “Manhunt for Pennsylvania trooper shooting suspect escalates near state forest

  1. ” All day, police cars sat on either side of her house. She said she was now accustomed to their presence but worries about what would happen if police confronted Frein in her neighborhood.”

    She is accustomed to the ever present police state and does not question their made up “authority”. The exercise is going along as planned. She embraces her captor as a hero, staying textbook definition of Stockholm Syndrome.

    Soon she will embrace the furthering of even more restrictive legislation but she will embrace those also. As long as the NFL and DWTS comes on tv she is placated.

    She is the average Mr. and Mrs. Amerika who choose to ignore all the warning signs of a country on the brink of collapse as long as she is “protected” read “my abuser keeps me safe by not hitting me”.

    This hoax training exercise is working as well as the other hoaxes. It is getting beyond ridiculous what tptb will do to instill permanent foothold in power but I do know that what is planned for us AFTER complete control has been achieved will be of the most horrific of consequence.

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