2017-04-20 / State

Suspect a ‘terrorist’ who targeted police

By MICHAEL RUBINKAM
Associated Press

MILFORD, PA. (AP) — A prosecutor asked jurors on Wednesday to convict the survivalist who killed a Pennsylvania state police trooper and critically wounded a second trooper in a 2014 ambush at their rural barracks, calling the defendant a terrorist who sought to change the government through bullets and bombs.

District Attorney Ray Tonkin said 33-year-old Eric Frein was a cold-blooded killer who was “literally hunting humans” when he opened fire on the Blooming Grove barracks Sept. 12, 2014.

Frein, who led police on a 48-day manhunt through the Pocono Mountains before his capture by U.S. marshals, faces a potential death sentence if he’s convicted of killing Cpl. Bryon Dickson II. Trooper Alex Douglass was shot through the hips and left debilitated.

Jurors were to begin deliberating Wednesday afternoon, with the outcome in little doubt. The defense offered no evidence or testimony and conceded the government’s overwhelming case for conviction.

“I certainly acknowledge that that mountain of evidence you heard and you saw points to my client, Eric Frein,” defense lawyer Michael Weinstein said in a brief closing argument in which he thanked the jurors for their attentiveness.

Prosecutors presented more than 500 pieces of evidence tying Frein to the attack. His DNA was found on the trigger of the murder weapon, and police recovered several handwritten notebook pages at Frein’s wooded campsite in which he described the ambush.

“A terrorist with murder in his heart, a plan in his mind and a rifle in his hand slithered through the woods,” took up a position and fired on the barracks from a distance of 87 yards, Tonkin told the jury, striking Dickson in the chest and through the shoulders and spine.

Frein waited nearly 90 seconds until Douglass came to Dickson’s aid and then shot him, too, Tonkin said.

If Frein is convicted of first-degree murder, the defense will shift its focus to trying to persuade the jury to spare his life. He faces a total of 12 charges, including murder of a law enforcement officer, terrorism and weapons of mass destruction counts related to bombs he left in the woods while eluding a police dragnet.

Tonkin read to jurors the letter that Frein wrote his parents while on the run.

The letter said in part that “only passing through the crucible of another revolution can get us back the liberties we once had.” He added: “Tension is high at the moment and the time seems right for a spark to ignite a fire in the hearts of men. What I have done has not been done before and it felt like it was worth a try.”

Tonkin reminded jurors that “we do not change government here in America with bullets,” but “with our votes.”

He portrayed Frein as hard-hearted and remorseless.

The marksman killed Dickson only “because he wore a uniform,” Tonkin said, and the victim “never knew what hit him and he never stood a chance.”

Douglass, a fitness enthusiast who suffered devastating injuries in the attack, “will never be the same,” Tonkin said. “Never.”

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