Pa. cop-sniper manhunt enters 3rd week: Can Eric Frein ever be caught?

Police know where alleged cop-killer Eric Frein has been in the dark, tangled Pennsylvania forest, even what he's been eating. But three weeks of searching have passed, and Frein has yet to be caught.

Butch Comegys/Scranton Times & Tribune/AP
Members of the Scranton, Pa., Police Special Operations Group, search for suspected killer Eric Frein.

He’s eating tuna and ramen. He laid some pipe bombs. Searchers got within 100 yards of him several days ago, but failed to close the distance.

Locals are starting to wonder: Can Eric Frein even be caught?

The 31-year-old war reenactor, self-taught survivalist and crack rifle shot has eluded a 1,000-man-strong manhunt for three weeks now in the craggy and tangled underbrush of the Pocono Mountains.

The ceaseless search, performed by police officers eager to throw the alleged cop-killer to the jaws of justice, has brought much of everyday life in northeastern Pennsylvania to a halt as authorities have banned hunting and hiking in the area. Sights of police officers walking through backyards have become commonplace.

This week, police said they found Frein’s detritus, and believe him to be “stressed” and close to capture. Among the things he left behind: Ramen packages and tuna cans, and 90 rounds of the same .308 bullets he used to kill a state trooper and wound another.

On Sept. 12, police say Frein, who apparently has a beef with police, crept through the woods and within sight of the Blooming Grove State Highway Patrol barracks. Right after the11 p.m. shift change, he took aim at Cpl. Bryon Dickson, killing him. He also quickly shot Trooper Alex Douglass, who survived. Then the sniper slipped away, only to be glimpsed, Bigfoot-like, in the distance.

The shootings and search have vexed the tri-state region, as the manhunt has stymied the leaf-peeper tourist season.

What’s more, the manhunt has reminded many of the five-year search for Atlanta Olympics bomber Eric Rudolph, a Christian Identity extremist who carried out several anti-abortion bomb attacks, and who eluded the FBI for five years by holing up in the Nantahala National Forest near Murphy, N.C.

But there’s one key difference. In those days, it was federal investigators and agents who retreated to closely-protected compounds to rest, while many believed Mr. Rudolph received help from locals. Today, ribbons in the townships being searched show solidarity for the slain officer.

Frein is different in other respects. If he has an ideology, police haven’t said. Instead, they have implied he has morphed his passion for war reenactments and a particular affinity for Serbian Army exploits, into a tragic reality.

Two weeks into the search, police found an empty pack of Serbian cigarettes. They've also found diapers they believe to have been used by Frein – a common tactic among professional military snipers to hunker in place for days.

Some policing experts say they doubt Frein will leave the forest alive. Until now, though, Frein has maintained the upper hand.

“He’s playing a game, and he’s good at it,” Roger Smith, the owner of Smitty’s Camping and Sporting Goods, told John Luciew of the Patriot-News, in Mechanicsburg, Pa.

As far as anyone really knows at the moment, Frein could be hundreds of miles away, or behind the next rock.

"You could literally walk right past someone in this terrain and not see them ... unless you stepped on them," Pa. State Highway Patrol Lt. Col. George Bivens said.

You've read  of  free articles. Subscribe to continue.
Real news can be honest, hopeful, credible, constructive.
What is the Monitor difference? Tackling the tough headlines – with humanity. Listening to sources – with respect. Seeing the story that others are missing by reporting what so often gets overlooked: the values that connect us. That’s Monitor reporting – news that changes how you see the world.

Dear Reader,

About a year ago, I happened upon this statement about the Monitor in the Harvard Business Review – under the charming heading of “do things that don’t interest you”:

“Many things that end up” being meaningful, writes social scientist Joseph Grenny, “have come from conference workshops, articles, or online videos that began as a chore and ended with an insight. My work in Kenya, for example, was heavily influenced by a Christian Science Monitor article I had forced myself to read 10 years earlier. Sometimes, we call things ‘boring’ simply because they lie outside the box we are currently in.”

If you were to come up with a punchline to a joke about the Monitor, that would probably be it. We’re seen as being global, fair, insightful, and perhaps a bit too earnest. We’re the bran muffin of journalism.

But you know what? We change lives. And I’m going to argue that we change lives precisely because we force open that too-small box that most human beings think they live in.

The Monitor is a peculiar little publication that’s hard for the world to figure out. We’re run by a church, but we’re not only for church members and we’re not about converting people. We’re known as being fair even as the world becomes as polarized as at any time since the newspaper’s founding in 1908.

We have a mission beyond circulation, we want to bridge divides. We’re about kicking down the door of thought everywhere and saying, “You are bigger and more capable than you realize. And we can prove it.”

If you’re looking for bran muffin journalism, you can subscribe to the Monitor for $15. You’ll get the Monitor Weekly magazine, the Monitor Daily email, and unlimited access to

QR Code to Pa. cop-sniper manhunt enters 3rd week: Can Eric Frein ever be caught?
Read this article in
QR Code to Subscription page
Start your subscription today