Monday, October 6, 2014

Living with a Manhunt: More About Eric Frein


     #EricFreinManhunt is a popular “hashtag” phrase on Twitter these days. Here in the Poconos we continue to live with the intense search for an accused murderer in our woodlands and hills. Most of us watch from a distance, but most of us also have close friends and even family members whose lives are directly impacted by the intensity of the search as it enters its fourth week.
     Posts on Facebook: videos of helicopters, with captions such as “Well, hello again” and “They’re back,” and comments such as “[my husband] says it’s the Department of Homeland Security.” A photo of a van labeled “Channel 10” news, with the caption “This was parked in front of my house.” Local/regional/national articles and items from newscasts posted, with numerous comments from people who live here. Or just a post: “Anything new?”
     Schools are all in full swing; people go about their daily lives as best they can. This could be hearsay, but I believe the local LEOs may no longer be part of the search. Crime in our communities didn’t go on hold; the perpetrators didn’t decide to take a few weeks off. The Pennsylvania State Police, police from New York State, agents from the FBI, ATF, U.S. Marshals Office and possibly the DHS carry on with trying to track down Eric Frein. From more than one source, the count of at least one thousand law enforcement officers.
     Local and area businesses, particularly establishments which serve food, help provide meals, beverages, snacks for the LEOs. The little town of Mountainhome is a sea of blue bows, showing support. Hand-lettered signs reinforce the support. Of course there is some grumbling, and some doubters who believe Frein is long gone, somewhere in the Canadian wilderness or perhaps in Mexico. Most of us find it hard to believe the search would be sustained for this length of time unless the people in charge have good reason to believe he’s here, hiding in our woods.
     And from time to time the excitement on Facebook is palpable: seems they nearly have him. One post follows another for sometimes hours, but nothing develops. I was particularly startled very recently by a Facebook status from my daughter-in-law who is near the search area, but not directly in it: “Yep. This is happening right now. My house is surrounded by cops and there are helicopters directly overhead.” Eventually I learned someone dressed in black was seen walking in that area and some of the troops responded immediately to check out the report.
     Most of the people in the immediate area like seeing the “cops.” They feel safer, though the populace has been told repeatedly Frein has not threatened civilians. His behavior is at the least bizarre, though, and who knows what he might do next. Archery hunting season started three days ago and has been indefinitely restricted in certain areas.
     No matter where in Monroe County you live, this situation has created an undercurrent of uneasiness, without a doubt. We all want him caught. We all want this to end. We all do NOT want another dead or wounded law enforcement officer, so it’s fine that they are moving cautiously.
     We’ve learned more about him. We’ve seen many photos, generally with him dressed in a replica of an Eastern European military uniform. We’ve learned he sent a text message to a local man self-described as Frein’s only friend. The text was sent the afternoon before the ambush on the Blooming Grove PSP barracks and read in part, “all is good” and “heading back to Delaware.” We’ve been told Frein had lied to people about working in Delaware as cover for his planned ambush.
     We’ve also learned he was arrested and jailed in New York State after stealing items from a vendor at a World War II re-enactment in 2004 in Odessa. Frein attempted to sell some of these items on eBay and eventually served some three months in jail, after being arrested for the theft and breaking bail. It’s possible this was the beginning of his vendetta against law enforcement officers.
     We are sure there is a great deal we are NOT being told. Any items that might be potential evidence during a trial, we don’t need to know about, and we are told little or nothing about. Anything that might be a danger to the residents, such as the two pipe bombs found last week, we are told about.

     As most people do, I receive text messages of news updates from the local newspaper. Hopefully the next text message I get will not be a frost advisory. It will be the capture of Eric Frein.