Cops: Pennsylvania ambush suspect playing cat-and-mouse 'game'

The 1,000-officer manhunt for Eric Frein, suspected of killing a state trooper, turned up empty at an abandoned inn. Police say his movements, just out of reach of authorities, look like a reenactment game that’s morphed into real life.

Jake Danna Stevens/The Times-Tribune/AP
Pennsylvania State Police Lt. Col. George Bivens presents evidence about suspect Eric Frein during a news conference in the Blooming Grove Municipal Township Building in Blooming Grove, Pa., on Wednesday. Frein, a suspect in the fatal ambush of a trooper, has occasionally made himself visible to officers before melting back into the forest.

Eric Frein, America’s most wanted fugitive, may be playing a devious cat and mouse “game” with police as a massive manhunt cautiously tracks the self-taught survivalist and war reenactor through some of America’s most impenetrable deep woods.

Since Mr. Frein is suspected to have ambushed and killed Cpl. Bryon Dickson and seriously wounded Trooper Alex Douglass outside a state police barracks in Blooming Grove, Pa., the 1,000-officer hunt for the self-taught survivalist and war reenactor has focused on the thick wilds of the Poconos, where police say they have already “kicked out quite a few bears” as they search hollows and caves.

Frein has been tantalizingly close, with a hooded figure believed to be him spotted several times, but just out of reach of police. State police say Frein may be playing a cat-and-mouse “game” with authorities, possibly as part of a reenactment game that’s morphed into real life. On Friday, the search focused on the Buck Hill Inn, an abandoned, supposedly haunted hotel once used in an MTV reality show. Police found the sprawling hotel complex empty.

The FBI says Frein is a heavy smoker and has studied Russian and Serbian. He also has made claims that he’s fought with Serbians in Africa. According to a digital wanted billboard in New York’s Times Square, there’s a $100,000 reward for information leading to his capture.

Police believe they’ve found at least a few of Frein’s hiding spots, given the remnants of the Serbian brand cigarettes he prefers, as well as soiled diapers, which police say he may have used, a la military snipers, in order to remain in one place for a long time. Sources also say police were able to trace a short phone call Frein made to his parents in Canadensis, Pa., but state police have neither confirmed nor denied that anecdote.

Police have locked down two northeastern Pennsylvania townships for so long that some residents are claiming their constitutional rights are being violated, because they can’t move freely in and around their homes. Police have asked residents to please be patient. Philly.com, citing unnamed sources, has reported that police are moving through the area on high alert, because they believe Frein may have set pipe-bomb booby traps.

According to police, Frein may be clean-shaven and wearing a brown-and-gold windbreaker, khaki shorts, and sneakers. He may be carrying  a dark-green backpack with black trim. His hair may be styled in a “Mohawk.”

Frein has been heavily involved in war reenactment groups that use pellet guns to wage faux battles. One picture of him shows him aiming a rifle while wearing a Serbian uniform and smoking presumably a Serbian cigarette. He was a top shooter on his high school rifle team.

"We are pushing him hard, he is no longer safe, and I am confident that he will be apprehended," Pennsylvania Highway Patrol Lt. Col. George Bivens told a press conference.

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