Trooper ambush suspect Eric Frein performed extensive internet research on how to avoid police manhunts, experimented with explosives and might have booby-trapped the woods where authorities are looking for him, Pennsylvania State Police said Friday, two weeks after the deadly attack outside a rural barracks.
Police looked through the hard drive of a computer used by Frein and found a search history that indicates he had been planning an attack for several years, Lt. Col. George Bivens said.
Frein, 31, is charged with opening fire at the Blooming Grove barracks on Sept. 12, killing one trooper and injuring another. He has managed to elude hundreds of law enforcement officials looking for him in the thick woods around his parents' home in Canadensis, in the Pocono Mountains, taking advantage of the difficult terrain to keep them at bay. He is believed to be armed with at least one high-powered rifle.
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"I suspect he wants to have a fight with the state police, but I think that involves hiding and running since that seems to be the way he operates," Bivens said. "I expect that he'll be hiding and try to take a shot from some distance from a place of concealment, as he has done in the past."
Underscoring the danger they face as they pursue him, Bivens said Frein had experimented with explosives, citing materials that police found and interviews with people who knew him. Trackers are proceeding through the thick woods as though they are booby-trapped, he said.
Frein also performed Internet research on law enforcement technology and survival skills, using a computer other than his own, Bivens said. Police tried to look at Frein's own computer but he had removed the hard drive at some point before the ambush, he said.
On Friday, police searched a shuttered, derelict 113-year-old resort that Frein had been known to visit.
The 400-room Buck Hill Inn, near the main search area, was featured in a 2001 episode of MTV's "Fear." State police spokesman Trooper Tom Kelly said Frein hadn't been spotted there and police were simply clearing it.
Several days ago, a police dog picked up Frein's scent and flushed him from his hiding place. But the distance was too great, and Frein was able to get away, the dense canopy providing cover from a police helicopter overhead, Bivens said.
"I do believe, based on his actions and things that he has said in the past, that he may consider this to be a bit of a game - a war game, if you will," he said.
Authorities believe they have him contained in a 5-square-mile perimeter. As the search for the gunman neared its third week, Bivens said he remained confident police will catch their man - "at some point."
A person can easily lose himself or herself in the Pennsylvania woods, said Julie Martin and Eddie Starnater, who teach wilderness survival and "traditional living" skills at their school Practical Primitive in Great Meadows, New Jersey.
Twenty miles from Canadensis, in the Delaware Water Gap National Recreational Area, they demonstrated just how easy: Martin spotted an immature hemlock tree and crawled underneath it, making herself invisible even though she was only a few feet away from the trail.
"As long as I don't move," she said, "you would walk right past me and never see me."
Besides having the ability to conceal himself, Frein probably has stockpiles of food and supplies, according to Martin and Starnater. Even if he doesn't, though, there's still a fairly ample supply of nuts, roots and other wild edibles this time of year, as well as small game and insects, they said.
"What we now call 'survival,' Martin said, "300 years ago they just called it 'Wednesday.'"