By Michael Rubinkam
BLOOMING GROVE, Pa.— A survivalist accused of ambushing two state troopers, killing one and seriously wounding the other, was captured on Thursday by U.S. marshals in an abandoned airplane hangar, ending a seven-week manhunt that had rattled the nerves of area residents, authorities said.
The apparently quiet takedown of Eric Frein ended weeks of tension and turmoil in the area, as authorities at times closed schools, canceled outdoor events and blockaded roads to pursue him.
State police confirmed Frein was taken into custody Thursday but released no other details. Media photographs show him sitting in the back of a cruiser with a bloodied nose, with longer hair than he had in images on the FBI’s most wanted posters.
Two law enforcement officials said Frein was captured in the hangar. A federal law enforcement official in Washington said Frein was armed when he was captured.
Frein is charged with opening fire outside the Blooming Grove barracks on Sept. 12, killing Cpl. Bryon Dickson and seriously wounding another trooper.
Police said they linked him to the ambush after a man walking his dog discovered his partly submerged SUV three days later in a swamp a few miles from the shooting scene.
Inside, investigators found shell casings matching those found at the barracks as well as Frein’s driver’s license, camouflage face paint, two empty rifle cases and military gear.
Officials, saying Frein was armed and extremely dangerous, had urged residents to be alert and cautious. Using dogs, thermal imaging technology and other tools, law enforcement officials combed miles of forest as they hunted for Frein, whom they called an experienced survivalist at home in the woods.
Trackers found items they believe Frein hid or abandoned in the woods — including soiled diapers, empty packs of Serbian cigarettes, an AK-47-style assault rifle and ammunition and two pipe bombs that were functional and capable of causing significant damage.
They 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.
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.
Police found a U.S. Army manual called “Sniper Training and Employment” in his bedroom at his parents’ house, and his father, a retired Army major, told authorities that his son is an excellent marksman who “doesn’t miss,” according to a police affidavit.
Authorities believe Frein had been planning a confrontation with police for years, citing information they found on a computer used by him.
Helen Blackmore, who lives in the heart of the search zone in Cresco, was ready for some normalcy.
“It was very crazy here. Nobody was sleeping,” she said. “We’re very relieved. We want things to get back to normal.”
Dickson, at his funeral, was called a devoted husband and father and “impeccable” ex-Marine who took his work seriously but also enjoyed making wooden toys for his young sons and finding humor in everyday situations.
Trooper Alex Douglass was shot in the pelvis and critically injured in the ambush.Douglass remained hospitalized until Oct. 16, when he was discharged to a rehabilitation facility, state police said.
“If you attack troopers, and a civilized society, the Pennsylvania State Police will bring you to justice. Eric Frein is a coward,” the Pennsylvania State Troopers Association said in a statement. “Cpl. Bryon K. Dickson II and Trooper Alex T. Douglass are true heroes.”