It has been ten days since Eric Matthew Frein, 31, a Pennsylvania native who has been on the run since Friday, Sept. 12, allegedly opened fire at two Pennsylvania State Police troopers at the Blooming Grove barracks, killing Cpl. Bryon Dickson and critically injuring Trooper Alex T. Douglass. Police have said Frein was anti-government and especially anti-law enforcement, which they believe is his motive for the attack. However, friends of Frein, who say they are “disturbed” by law enforcement’s and the media’s portrayal of him, paint a very different picture.
Frein belonged to a military simulation unit called Eastern Wolves. The group would meet frequently to dress up as soldiers and reenact World War II battles. Many from that group have been speaking out and based on what they have said, it seems the man who was recently added to the FBI’s Top Ten Most Wanted list is well-respected amongst his peers.
One of his friends from the group, Stephen D’Arcangelo, 27, who said he last saw Frein a month ago, described his friend as a “normal, easy-going guy,” that just wanted to have a good time. He admitted that there can be some “odd” people in the military simulation unit scene, but stressed that Frein was not one of them. He further complained that the police and media are making his friend sound like Travis Bickle, the serial killer from the movie Taxi Driver, but really, Frein “wasn’t that dude.” D’Arcangelo also denies that his friend talked about committing mass murder or wanted to kill cops and insists he “never heard” Frein say anything remotely like that.
Another friend from the group, Jessica Furin, 25, echoed similar sentiments. She expressed shock her friend was being portrayed as anti-cop because she remembers when some members of Eastern Wolves expressed a desire to go into law-enforcement, Frein responded with encouraging words and said that it was “good discipline.”
Friends are at a loss as to what, if anything, could have driven Frein to do what he is alleged to have done. Zach Neilson, also a member of Eastern Wolves, described Frein as a “smart, intelligent guy,” and said he does not know what could have made him “snap.” Jeremiah Hornbaker, who has known Frein since 2007, said that his friend was not a loner and on the contrary, he was sociable, friendly and had girlfriends.
Pennsylvania State Troopers disagree. They believe Frein has held a grudge against law-enforcement since he was accused of stealing memorabilia from a World War II re-enactment site in upstate New York in 2004, for which he was charged with grand larceny, a felony. When he failed to show up for his April 2006 trial, a warrant was issued for his arrest and once nabbed, he spent nearly four months in an upstate New York county jail. Frein ended up accepting a plea deal with the prosecution and plead guilty to possession of stolen property, a misdemeanor. He was credited for time served and released. Police reportedly found court documents detailing his arrest and conviction on his nightstand in his bedroom. Various items of his hidden in the woods, including a rifle, were reportedly found. Police believe Frein has likely been planning the attack, subsequent escape and hiding for months, or even years.
While D’Arcangelo may disagree with what Pennsylvania State Police have been saying about Frein, he conceded that his friend may very well be responsible for killing one of the cops and injuring another in the attack last week. “I want to believe that he didn’t do it,” he said. “But if that’s the case…where is he?”
By Lindsey Dow