Things we learned from barracks ambush suspect’s confession
MILFORD, Pa. - He decided to attack a state police barracks only a few days before squeezing the trigger. He was surprised the manhunt for him wasn’t more aggressive. He feared he’d be shot by police but figured he had it coming.
Eric Frein’s videotaped statement to police, recorded on the night of his 2014 capture and aired publicly for the first time during his capital murder trial last week, offered new details into what the suspect was thinking and doing before, during and after the deadly ambush that killed one trooper and left a second with devastating injuries.
While chain-smoking cigarettes given to him by police, Frein answered many of the investigators’ questions with a nod or shake of the head — and, in the process, implicated himself over and over.
The 33-year-old college dropout, who eluded capture for nearly seven weeks after the ambush, faces a potential death sentence if he’s convicted in the attack that killed Cpl. Bryon Dickson. He’s pleaded not guilty. Prosecutors have said they could rest their case this week.
Some things we learned about Frein from the video and from other evidence presented at his trial:
PLAN DEVELOPED QUICKLY
Frein told police he began plotting the ambush the first weekend of September, only a few days before the Sept. 12, 2014, attack. He used Google Earth to scope out state police barracks near his home in Canadensis, picking the Blooming Grove station because it was surrounded by woods and offered good cover. He said he didn’t visit the area ahead of time and knew no one at the barracks.
HIDE AND SEEK
Frein wasn’t exactly on the run during a large portion of the manhunt. He told police he spent most of his time as one of America’s most wanted men living in an airplane hangar attached to a defunct and abandoned Poconos resort more than 20 miles from the shooting scene. It was stocked with everything he needed to live in relative comfort, though he did say he burglarized a home a few days before his capture to steal food. He called it “scary” and “a little bit disconcerting” to be the target of a manhunt but added he didn’t care if he got caught.
RELUCTANT TO OFFER MOTIVE
Faced repeatedly with questions about why he did it, Frein demurred. “I don’t know,” he said at one point. At another, Frein seemed to suggest he was dissatisfied with his life as a 31-year-old man who lived with his parents and had few job prospects. Finally, toward the end, he agreed with the investigators’ suggestions that he shot Dickson and Trooper Alex Douglass to “wake people up” and force a change in government. He complained there was no one worth voting for.
Another key piece of evidence — a letter to his parents — lends credence to the idea that Frein was a wannabe revolutionary. He wrote that only another revolution can “get us back the liberties we once had.”
CLAIMS TO BE RELIGIOUS
Asked if he considered himself a man of faith, Frein nodded his head yes. He talked about Old Testament prophesy and the New Testament book of Luke. He made the sign of the cross when an investigator said “thank God” nobody got seriously hurt during the manhunt. He spoke of his soul and said “there’s already enough to answer for.”
And, in a handwritten journal recovered from the hangar, he asked Jesus Christ for mercy.
Frein did not square his professions and displays of piety with the sniper who plotted, laid in wait and chose his victims at random.