Friday, October 31, 2014

The End of the Eric Frein Manhunt


     And just like that, it was over. I was at my piano, giving a voice lesson to a student when I received a text message of a news alert from the local newspaper, the Pocono Record. When I signed up for this service I hoped each time I received such a message it would give me the news that Eric Frein, accused of murdering of one Pennsylvania State Trooper and severely wounding another on September 12, had been apprehended. And until around six-forty last night, none of these alerts told me that.
     But the text I received last night was “State Police confirm Eric Frein in custody.” What began seven weeks ago tonight with the ambush at the Blooming Grove State Police Barracks in neighboring Pike County had come to an end.
     This morning the headlines in the Record read “GOT HIM!” in at least 124 point type. That was the message we’d all been waiting to hear for a long time. A friend who has been living in the “hot zone” all these weeks had this status on her Facebook timeline today: “So thankful for a feeling of peace this morning as I fed the horses and let the dogs run! Thank you everyone involved in the capture! Was a fall I'll never forget!
     There still hasn’t been a great deal of information released, but we were told Frein was caught outside of an airplane hangar on the old, abandoned Birchwood Resort grounds by a team of U.S. Marshals agents. Checking the “chatter” on Facebook, there was of course some confusion about details … even regarding the airport, which is in Pocono Township and not Barrett or Price Townships where the primary activity had taken place for much of the search.
     The LEOs have been doing searches throughout all of these Townships. The woods are vast, something I’m sure people who don’t know the area may not fully understand. The many law enforcement officers on the scene, to the best of my understanding, had divided the area into grids and did routine sweeps through those areas in teams. Last night, just before dark, one sweep finally paid off.
     From what I understand at this point, Frein was unarmed at the time he was apprehended and surrendered to the law enforcement officers who caught him. We are told there were weapons and ammunition found in the hangar along with other items. The investigation into Frein’s alleged crime is ongoing, however, and few details have yet been released. Frein is being charged with myriad crimes, including first degree premeditated murder, and homicide of a law enforcement officer. Unless there is a change of venue – certainly a possibility – he will be tried in Pike County in the charming little town of Milford. All that remains to be seen.
     I’m sure it’s too early to write a retrospective on these events, but some thoughts on this nearly seven week search I need to share. Most of the local people, especially those directly impacted by the search whose lives were disrupted in many ways, have been staunch supporters of the efforts of law enforcement. Many of us were not directly in the “hot zone” but had friends and family who were, and our concerns were for them. It’s hard to understand if you weren’t living here, but there was strong empathy for what they were experiencing.
     There are those who feel if it had been a civilian who had been murdered this kind of effort would not have ensued. And that might be true. However, have not most of us been dismayed by the senseless killings recently of both military personnel and law enforcement officers that have happened at different locations around this country, and even in Canada? Do we ignore these events and invite anarchy? I think not.
     Yes, I’m sure there are “bad cops” who go undetected and unpunished. I choose to believe the majority of LEOs make every effort to fulfill their sworn responsibilities and do their best to keep us safe. They go on duty usually six times a week with a handgun and perhaps a Kevlar vest as their only protection to face who knows what. Most of the time they return safely to their families. But sometimes there are officers who do not. Corporal Bryon Dickson did not on September 12.
     I’ve heard comments to the effect Frein was probably long gone and the efforts of the agents on scene were futile and a waste of time and money. That I don’t even need to address, given the resolution. He never left these woods, and it’s quite possible those in charge of the manhunt were privy to information which was a confirmation of that fact and was never shared with the public for obvious reasons.
     It was our understanding from the beginning that Frein was “probably” not a danger to civilians. However, how can we know that for sure? If Frein had not been pressured by the relentless pursuit of the LEOs, who knows what he might have done? It’s impossible to understand him at all. I’m sure the FBI had profilers working on this case. It would be fascinating to be able to read their findings.
     Frein’s mind doesn’t work the way mine does, of that I can be sure. Who knows what he might have been thinking? When I heard from my daughter-in-law who was home with three children under the age of four that officers were searching her property with a helicopter hovering overhead, I’m sure her sense of safety was much greater because of that than someone saying to her, “Don’t worry, he’s not a danger to you or your kids.” (Actually, Birchwood Resort is fairly close to where my son and his family live.)
     Most of the people in the “hot zone” were glad the LEOs were there, whether they might have been targets or not. They are undoubtedly more relieved than any of us that this has come to an end. Frein eluded capture for longer than we’d have liked, but it could have continued. He may have grown tired of constantly having to be on the lookout. Those U.S. Marshals may have caught a lucky break; it seems they came across him when he had made a mistake by leaving his hideout without a weapon.
     I won’t use Frein’s image in this post. Many of us who live here want to try to honor the fallen Pennsylvania State Trooper and make his the name that people remember from this incident. And it’s Corporal Dickson’s photo that I include as a tribute to the law enforcement officers who work diligently and risk their lives daily to “serve and protect.”