- Police believe ambush was planned for months
- Suspect's battle appears to be with police, not civilians, authorities say
- Hundreds of officers resume search hours after apparently closing in on suspect
- Eric Matthew Frein, 31, a self-taught survivalist, is wanted in state trooper's death
The self-taught survivalist accused of killing one Pennsylvania state trooper and wounding another planned the ambush for months, police said.
Authorities continue their search for suspect Eric Matthew Frein on Sunday but were yet to have cornered him in a wooded area around the Pike and Monroe county border.
"Based on our investigations, we know Frein has prepared and planned extensively for months or maybe years," State Police Lt. Col. George Bivens said Sunday. He planned his attack and retreat. However, we believe we are closing in on him."
The suspect has had the advantage of knowing the terrain where he is hidden, but police say his head start is fleeting.
"Our tactical operations people now also know his backyard, the area he once felt safe in," Bivens said. "We are pushing him hard, he is no longer safe there and I am confident he will be apprehended."
Frein is being sought in the death of Cpl. Bryon Dickson in a September 12 ambush outside the Pennsylvania State Police barracks in Blooming Grove. He is also suspected of wounding another officer.
He is still considered armed and dangerous, and police have found several items that Frein had either abandoned or hidden, he said.
An assault rifle and ammunition are among the weapons recovered, Bivens said.
There have been several possible sightings of the suspect, but Bivens declined to label any as a confirmed sighting.
While a shelter-in-place order for residents near the primary search area has been lifted, people should stay out of the woods where law enforcement officers are looking for the self-taught survivalist, police said.
Frein is on the run and possibly armed, but there is no indication that he is a danger to anyone other than law enforcement, Bivens said. If he wanted to harm civilians, he's had the opportunity to do so, he said.
"While we can never completely rule out an act of violence, I am convinced that Frein has engaged in a personal battle with law enforcement, specifically the Pennsylvania State Police, and will likely stay focused on that fight," he said.
Police on Friday had surrounded an area where Frein was believed to be hiding, the chairman of Barrett Township board of supervisors, Ralph Megliola, said. He added that he was unaware if there had been any credible sightings of Frein since then.
The area is not far from Frein's family home in Canadensis, in the Poconos.
There were gunshots in the area, but Bevins said they were not related to the search, and that officers and the suspect have not exchanged gunfire.
As many as 400 law enforcement officers were involved in the search, including members of the U.S. Marshals Service, the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives, and the FBI.
Canadensis is about 20 miles from the site where Dickson was shot.
The FBI has placed Frein on its Ten Most Wanted Fugitives list and is offering a $100,000 reward for information leading to his arrest.
Frein is a survivalist with an extensive shooting background and a grudge against law enforcement, officials have said.
Frein apparently cut his hair into a mohawk style before the attack on police and was active in a military simulation unit that re-enacted Cold War-era European conflicts, officials said.
His FBI most-wanted poster describes him as a "heavy smoker, a weapons enthusiast, and a survivalist. He claims to have fought with Serbians in Africa, and he has studied Russian and Serbian languages."
State Police Commissioner Frank Noonan said Wednesday that investigators know Frein "has made statements about wanting to kill law enforcement officers and also to commit mass acts of murder."
"He has very strong feelings about law enforcement and seems to be very angry with a lot of things that go on in our society."