“He was placed under arrest and handcuffed with the handcuffs of Cpl. Dickson, which I think is very appropriate,” Pennsylvania Gov. Tom Corbett (R) said Thursday at a late-night news conference.
The U.S. Marshals Service had a team at the now-defunct Birchwood-Pocono Airpark as part of a regular routine in the search for 31-year-old Frein. Marshals spotted him in an open field near an old hangar and ordered him to surrender. He knelt down, raised his hands and admitted his identity. Pennsylvania State Police Commissioner Frank Noonan said the suspect was “taken by surprise” and arrested without incident.
Authorities found a rifle and a pistol at the hangar.
“He has been stripped of his guns, his bombs, and now his freedom,” Sam Rabadi, chief of the Philadelphia office of the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives, told reporters.
Frein’s FBI’s wanted poster now reads: “Captured.”
A WBRE-TV reporter tweeted what was said to be the first photo of Frein in custody.
Frein, a self-styled survivalist, is charged with ambushing two troopers outside the barracks Sept. 12, killing Dickson and wounding trooper Alex Douglass. Since then, he has been hiding in the dense woods in the Pocono Mountains.
More than 1,000 law enforcement officers were involved in the manhunt. Thursday night, Noonan said the reason Frein’s capture took so long was because the wooded search area was vast and Frein was familiar with it. He said police “had to be very careful” how they searched.
Noonan said police knew that at one point Frein had a sniper rifle, handgun and explosive charges with him.
“I can’t think of a more dangerous occupation than going into the woods after this individual,” Noonan said. “Eric Frein had a mission and that was to attack law enforcement. If he got out of those woods, we were very concerned that he would then kill other law enforcement and, if not them, civilians. That’s why we had to keep the pressure on.”
At one point, police suspected Frein was treating the massive manhunt as a game with law enforcement officers, who would catch glimpses of him before he would disappear again into the woods. Police found several items he reportedly left behind, including military-style food packs, pipe bombs, ammunition and clothing.
Later, officers discovered a handwritten journal, reportedly written by Frein, that included what police described as a “cold-blooded and absolutely chilling account” of the Sept. 12 ambush. Earlier this month, State Police Lt. Col. George Bivens read passages from the pages at a news conference, starting with a description of Dickson’s death.
“Got a shot around 11 p.m. and took it,” Bivens read. “He dropped. I was surprised at how quick. I took a follow-up shot on his head, neck area. He was still and quiet after that.
“Another cop approached the one I just shot,” he continued, explaining how Douglass entered the scene. “As he went to kneel, I took a shot at him and he jumped in the door. His legs were visible and still.”
Frein, of Canadensis, Pa., is charged with first-degree murder, homicide of a law enforcement officer, first-degree attempted murder, possession of weapons of mass destruction, discharging a firearm into an occupied structure and reckless endangerment. Authorities said they would seek the death penalty.
“Let me assure you from everybody here, justice will be served,” Corbett said.
The manhunt unnerved nearby communities. A local resident claimed this month he has been mistaken for Frein by state troopers more than 20 times. Last week, several schools in the area closed as police investigated a possible sighting of the suspect. And this week, Barrett Township authorities canceled Halloween. It’s back on now.
“Trick-or-treating is on tomorrow night,” the township’s board chairman Ralph Megliola said Thursday night. “We as a town think the kids have gone through enough.”
Helen Blackmore, who lives in nearby Cresco, said she’s glad it’s all over.
“It was very crazy here. The helicopters were out all the time. Nobody was sleeping. Even today they were out,” she told the Associated Press. “We’re relieved. We’re very relieved. We want things to get back to normal.”
Abby Phillip contributed to this report.