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Pennsylvania trooper killed by survivalist targeting cops, police say

Pennsylvania state troopers continue to search for a gunman who shot and killed Cpl. Bryon Dixon during an "ambush" outside the Blooming Grove barracks on Friday night.
(Butch Comegys / Scranton Times-Tribune)

Pennsylvania authorities have identified a 31-year-old man they described as a survivalist with a strong desire to kill police officers as the man who allegedly shot and killed a state trooper in an ambush outside a police barracks Friday night.

Eric Matthew Frein, a Pennsylvania resident, allegedly used a .308-caliber rifle to gun down Cpl. Bryon Dickson and seriously wound a second officer -- Trooper Alex T. Douglass -- around 10:50 p.m. Friday, State Police Commissioner Frank Noonan told reporters Tuesday afternoon.

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FOR THE RECORD
Sept. 16, 12:40 p.m.: An earlier version of this post misspelled the last name of Cpl. Bryon Dickson as Dixon.
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Noonan has described the attack as an ambush and said Dickson and Douglass had little chance to defend themselves. Dickson died a short time later, while Douglass was hospitalized in stable but critical condition.

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While the shooter’s motives remain unclear, Noonan said Frein had “made statements about wanting to kill law enforcement officers and also wanting to commit mass acts of murders.”

“He has expressed anti-government leanings in the past, especially toward law enforcement,” Noonan said, adding that many of his rants appeared on social media.

Police searched Frein’s home in Candensis early Tuesday, and his parents told investigatiors that an AK-47 assault rifle and a .308-caliber rifle with a scope were missing from the residence, according to a criminal complaint filed with the Pike County district attorney’s office.

Frein was trained to shoot by his father, a retired U.S. Army major. He had been a member of his high school rifle team, and had become so adept with long guns that he “doesn’t miss,” his father told police, according to the complaint.

A call to Frein’s family home was not immediately returned.

The complaint also offered a detailed narrative of the shooting, indicating Frein opened fire on Dickson from long range. Dickson was walking out of the barracks when he was felled by two gunshots, according to the complaint.

Douglass and Trooper Nicole Palmer then tried to render aid to to the fallen corporal, but Frein allegedly squeezed off two more rounds, striking Douglass once in the pelvis.

After 90 seconds of gunfire, troopers raced out from the barracks and used a patrol car to shield Dickson and Douglass from any additional gunfire, but Dickson died at the scene a short time later, according to the court filings.

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Police began to suspect Frein after a resident noticed a truck submerged in a pond about two miles from the barracks in Blooming Grove in northeastern Pennsylvania where the shootings took place.

Detectives searched the vehicle and found shell casings that matched a weapon used in the attack on Dickson, Noonan said. They also located camouflage face paint, two empty rifle cases, military gear and information concerning foreign embassies, according to court filings.

Frein is charged with murder, attempted murder, assault and weapons offenses among other crimes, according to Noonan, who said court documents would be released later on Tuesday.

Police did not know where Frein was on Tuesday, according to Noonan, who said troopers were actively searching for him.

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Noonan said Frein had been arrested previously for theft in another state but did not have prior contact with troopers from the Blooming Grove barracks. Noonan said Frein was a “survivalist.”

While the attack was aimed at law enforcement officers, Noonan said, nothing indicated that Dickson and Douglass were specifically targeted.

On Monday, Lt. Col. Bivens, deputy commissioner of operations, said Frein may have suffered a recent crisis in his life and had complained about the state police several times on social media.

“This spineless act may have been meant as an act of intimidation. Let me be very clear, we are not intimidated, we are coming after you,” Bivens said on Monday.

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A reward for information leading to Fein’s arrest now stands at $75,000, Bivens said.

Dickson had been with the agency for seven years and recently transferred to Blooming Grove from the Philadelphia area, Noonan has said.

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