Eric Matthew Frein is suspected in the September 12 ambush of two officers
One of the officers died; the other was wounded
He has eluded capture for some six weeks, despite a massive manhunt in Pennsylvania
"It's kind of scary -- a little bit nerve-wracking," says one resident
Scared. Anxious. And more than a little surprised.
That’s how residents of northeast Pennsylvania are feeling some six weeks into the search for suspected cop killer Eric Matthew Frein.
Frein, 31, is accused in the September 12 ambush shooting that left Cpl. Bryon Dickson dead and Trooper Alex T. Douglass wounded outside the Pennsylvania State Police barracks in Blooming Grove.
He has eluded capture despite a massive manhunt around Canadensis, Pennsylvania, where his family has a home.
Late last week and early this week, Frein was reportedly spotted in a wooded area in the town of Swiftwater, about 8 miles southeast of the Canadensis area.
“It’s kind of scary – a little bit nerve-wracking – because we live so close to it,” said Marissa Labarre, who rode the bus to school with Frein when they were children.
Now, she drives a bus for the Pocono Mountain School District, which closed schools Tuesday because of the search for Frein.
Labarre remembered him as quiet, but not “weird,” and definitely not the type of person you’d expect to kill a cop.
“You hear of stuff like this, but you never know the person, or it’s like hours from you. You know, it’s on the news but it’s not ever close to home. So it’s a little bit scary,” said Labarre.
’Ready for a fight’
The hunt for Frein has turned life upside down for people inside the search area. Helicopters buzz overhead and police seem to be everywhere, all the time.
“Every night, every day, but mostly at night, the helicopters would be flying over our house, waking us up at 1 o’clock in the morning,” said Cory Batzel, in Swiftwater.
He said he’s not afraid, except at night, when he believes Frein might be on the move.
“During the day, there’s too many police around and too much action going on,” Batzel said.
Michael Myron described the presence of law enforcement in Swiftwater as “constant.” The area is typically quiet.
“Big armored cars, and the police have all their vests and stuff on so they’re, like, ready for a fight it looks like to me,” he said.
Police have not spoken about a possible motive, other than that Frein has talked and written about hating law enforcement. Authorities have said a review of a computer hard drive used by Frein shows that he had planned the attack for years.
The manhunt has already cost several million dollars. It has involved as many as 1,000 officers at times, some from other states.
“I didn’t expect him to last out there this long,” Myron said about Frein, a self-styled survivalist. “But he must be, you know, prepared more than I thought or, you know, a lot of people thought. We didn’t think he would make it this long. We didn’t think it’d go this long.”
’Rather … safe than sorry’
The search for Frein landed on one Swiftwater resident’s doorstep.
Adam Caprioli arrived home from work recently and found his woods flooded with law enforcement. He said officials told him dogs had tracked Frein’s scent to Caprioli’s back door, but that’s as far as it went.
“Supposedly they got the scent to my house, so that does make me feel a little scared but, I mean, the way those guys looked, they were ready to go, so I know if I called 911 and they came here, I’d be safe,” he said.
Frein is familiar with the Swiftwater area, having attended the high school and worked summers at a camp just to the west.
Fearing his possible presence, nearby Barrett Township postponed a Halloween parade and canceled trick-or-treating, urging children to celebrate at a local high school instead.
Officials who canceled school in the Pocono Mountain School District similarly chose not to take the chance. Parents, in large part, seem to agree that’s the right move.
“They could have called us last night and told us, you know, hey school is closed. I could still be laying in bed for another hour,” a parent of a fifth-grade boy told CNN affiliate WBRE on Tuesday.
But, he added: “I’d rather them be safe than sorry. I mean, if he’s in the area they should keep the kids home.”
Alexandra Field reported from Swiftwater, Pennsylvania. Dana Ford reported and wrote from Atlanta. CNN’s Michael Pearson, Jason Hanna and Shimon Prokupecz also contributed to this report.