CANADENSIS, Pa. (AP) – Law enforcement officials tracking the survivalist charged with ambushing a rural Pennsylvania State Police barracks said Friday that they have found caches of food and other supplies and believe he’ll likely start breaking into cabins or searching through trash bins to sustain himself.
Police found a campsite recently used by 31-year-old Eric Frein and found tuna fish, ramen noodles and other food and clothing as well as 90 rounds from a rifle of the same type used in the deadly Sept. 12 ambush, Lt. Col. George Bivens said. Police previously said they found two pipe bombs belonging to Frein at the same campsite.
“Because we continue to push Frein, and to seize the items he needs to survive, we believe he will be forced to search for food and shelters in other locations,” said Bivens, who gave an update on the manhunt three weeks after the shooting that killed Cpl. Bryon Dickson and seriously wounded Trooper Alex Douglass.
Hundreds of law enforcement officials have been searching for Frein in the woods around his parent’s home in Canadensis. Police have spoken with Frein’s family about making a public appeal for his surrender, but no decision has been made, Bivens said.
DNA testing, meanwhile, was inconclusive on soiled diapers thought to have been left by Frein, the FBI said Friday.
The diapers had been exposed to the elements, so “you can’t say one way or the other” whether Frein wore them, Edward Hanko, special agent in charge of the Philadelphia FBI office, said in a phone interview.
State police announced last week they had discovered diapers in the northeastern Pennsylvania woods where Frein is believed to be hiding, and that he might have worn them so he could remain stationary for long periods of time.
The diapers might have belonged to Frein, but the testing didn’t confirm it or rule it out, Hanko said.
Bivens said the diapers are still considered evidence in the case. He declined further comment.
The manhunt is concentrated on a heavily forested area in the Pocono Mountains. Authorities believe they have spotted Frein from a distance, but the rough terrain made it impossible to get to him. The last sighting deemed highly credible came earlier in the week, Bivens said.
Frein has been described as an anti-law enforcement survivalist and expert marksman at home in the woods. He’s considered armed and dangerous.
Even as the manhunt wrapped up its third full week, police said they remain confident Frein will be caught.
“It’s just a matter of time for him,” said Trooper Ryan Lawrence, who spent five days in the search zone. “The commissioner down to every road trooper has the same resolve.”
Lawrence, who worked a 12-hour overnight shift on road and perimeter patrol, said the possibility that Frein was lurking somewhere nearby was never far from his mind.
“You definitely have to stay within a tactical mindset, just so you’re not opening yourself up for a possible attack, at least limiting the possibility of making yourself a target,” Lawrence said Friday.
The trooper would keep himself out of the glare cast by his car’s headlights, for instance, giving him the ability to observe but not easily be observed.
Lawrence lives in Lancaster, about 100 miles from the search area. Troopers throughout Pennsylvania are signing up to search for Frein, he said.
“The driving force is obviously for the family of Cpl. Bryon Dickson. It’s a commonly spoken thing while there, you are doing it for him and his family,” Lawrence said. “There’s a wife and two sons who aren’t able to have their state trooper come home, and that’s a driving force for a lot of our guys up there.”
Pennsylvania state police have been joined by law enforcement officials from New York and New Jersey state police, the FBI, the U.S. Marshals Service and other federal agencies. The FBI alone has 140 to nearly 200 of its staff in the field each day, Hanko said, including agents, analysts, technicians, three full SWAT teams and members of a hostage rescue team.
Frein is not living off the land, Hanko said, but surviving on supplies he brought with him into the woods.
“He’ll be located,” Hanko said. “All our intel, and all of our analysis, and the sightings, and the items we’ve recovered that have been recently used tell us he’s there.”