CANADENSIS, Pa. (AP) — Nine days after a gunman opened fire in a deadly ambush at a Pennsylvania state police barracks, authorities said Sunday they have recovered one of the weapons he was carrying, including an AK-47-style weapon and ammunition, and believe they are hot on his trail.
Investigators said they believe the alleged gunman they describe as a self-taught survivalist had been planning a confrontation with law enforcement for months, if not years.
Pennsylvania State Police Lt. Col. George Bivens revealed a few more details about the manhunt for Eric Frein, saying trackers have discovered items he hid or abandoned in the woods — including a gun they believe he had been carrying while on the run.
“We are pushing him hard, he is no longer safe and I am confident he will be apprehended,” Bivens said.
The search is focusing on a several square-mile area on the border of Pike and Monroe counties around the village where Frein grew up, Bivens said.
“We know that Frein has prepared and planned extensively for months, and maybe years,” Bivens said. “He planned his attack and his retreat.”
Bivens said Frein had the advantage of knowing the “rugged terrain” around the area initially, but does not any longer.
“Our tactical operations people now also know his backyard, the area he once felt safe in,” Bivens said.
No contact had been made with Frein, who was placed on the FBI’s Most Wanted list after the Sept. 12 shooting at a nearby police barracks that left one trooper dead and a second wounded.
Bivens said authorities did not yet know if the gun they recovered had been used in the shooting.
Although Bivens did not say what police believe was Frein’s motive, he said Frein had been planning a confrontation with police.
Bivens said Frein had covered perhaps 15 or 20 miles since the shooting last week and authorities do not believe he has contacted his family. Police also have no information that he’s being helped by anyone, Bivens said.
Authorities lifted a shelter-in-place order on Saturday night in the Pocono Mountains community where the search has focused, although they continued to urge residents to be vigilant Sunday as the manhunt continues.
Bivens asked residents to report any shelters or bunkers that Frein may have constructed and also asked hunters to review footage from trail cameras set up to track wildlife.
Heavily armed police and federal agents on Friday descended on the community where Frein, 31, had lived with his parents, ordering residents to stay inside their homes and preventing anyone outside the neighborhood from returning to their homes. Law enforcement officers wearing bulletproof vests and armed with rifles scoured the woods as helicopters buzzed overhead.
Residents are being urged to keep doors locked, keep their yards well-lit and report suspicious persons or vehicles. They should also stay out of the dense, boggy woodlands where the search was underway, authorities said.