Pennsylvania sniper Eric Frein held without bail in trooper shooting
A bruised and gaunt Eric Frein, captured after a seven-week manhunt and held with the handcuffs of a Pennsylvania trooper he is accused of slaying, was held without bail on Friday after facing murder charges in court.
A massive police presence surrounded the 31-year-old survivalist, who prosecutors say will face the death penalty, as he was escorted in and out of the Pike County Courthouse for a preliminary arraignment on a first-degree murder charge and one count of homicide of a police officer, among other charges.
Wearing an orange jumpsuit with his face looking battered, Frein was asked by the judge whether he understood the charges against him.
“Yes I do,” Frein said in a strong voice.
Frein arrived at court in the cruiser and handcuffs used by Corporal Bryon Dickson, 38, who he is accused of killing in a sniper attack on Sept. 12 outside a Pennsylvania state police barracks in Blooming Grove. Frein also is charged with wounding Trooper Alex Douglass, 31, in the shooting.
Police later said Frein’s bruises, including an oozing gash over his nose, were the result of injuries he suffered while hiding in the woods as a fugitive.
Pike County District Attorney Raymond Tonkin said a preliminary hearing is scheduled for Nov. 12. Under Pennsylvania court proceedings, no plea was entered at the hearing on Friday.
Frein was apprehended on Thursday night after eluding a massive manhunt underway since the ambush. He surrendered at an abandoned aircraft hanger about 35 miles south of where the ambush took place during a shift change.
He was found by the U.S. Marshals service on routine patrol at a shuttered resort in Tannersville, Pennsylvania, and then was held with the handcuffs that belonged to Dickson, according to police.
“Eric Frein had a mission, and that was to attack law enforcement,” Frank Noonan, commissioner of the Pennsylvania State Police, said at a news conference on Thursday.
The manhunt has involved hundreds of officers from state, local and federal agencies, using helicopters, armored vehicles and sophisticated tracking technology.
Frein, who was on the FBI’s most wanted list, surrendered without incident, police said. Two firearms were found in the hangar but Frein was carrying no weapons.
Police have said the suspect, an expert marksman whose hobbies included dressing like a Serbian soldier in a war reenactment group, held a longstanding grudge against law enforcement, but they have provided little evidence. The sniper was not targeting any individual officer, according to police.
Tannersville, about 100 miles north of Philadelphia, is the center of the sprawling wooded terrain where police concentrated their search for Frein, who lived with his parents in Canadensis, 20 miles south of the barracks.
The heavy police presence and the aggressive tactics employed during the manhunt rattled many residents of the normally peaceful area of northeastern Pennsylvania, even as the shootings appalled the community.
(Editing by Barbara Goldberg and Susan Heavey)