Pocono manhunt in the minds of some Wilkes students

Sarah Bedford, News Editor

The 31-year-old Barrett Township resident accused of killing of a Pennsylvania state police trooper and wounding another has been at-large for more than two weeks in the Pocono region.

Although Wilkes-Barre is roughly an hour from the crime and search areas, some students attending Wilkes University from the Pocono region feel connected to the incident.

Eric Frein, is accused of killing state police Cpl. Bryon Dickson and wounding Trooper Alex Douglass on Sept. 12 outside Blooming Grove State Police Barracks in Pike County. A shooter open fired on troopers during a shift change, officials said. State police announced Frein’s arrest on Sept. 16, according to a press release.

Police have been combing a wooded area near Canadensis searching for Frein. Dubbed a survivalist, Frein has been added to the FBI’s most wanted list.

Michael Zudjelovic, a junior finance and marketing major, is from Mountainhome, near Canadensis. He knew of Frein when he was younger, adding “you knew everyone in town” then. Zudjelovic used to ride bikes in the community with his older brother, who is Frein’s age. Sometimes, Frein would be there as well.

“It comes across as somewhat shocking that it would come to what it came to, you know, ambush outside a police station,” he said. “It’s shocking to hear that anybody you know would (allegedly) do that.”

Zudjelovic said the police presence in the area has been extensive.

“It’s amazing how big a force they rolled out to find one person, and the fact that they haven’t found him yet gives him credit or takes away from our police – or both.”

Zudjelovic described the amount of law enforcement as a “small army.”

“[There are] armored vehicles in Barrett…It’s like a “when did this happen?” kind of deal,” he continued.

Junior communication studies and psychology major, Emily Kramer of Blakeslee, supports the law enforcement officers.

“As far as I’m concerned, they’re doing their best at this point,” she said. “You never would imagine this happening in your community and it’s frightening.”

Wilkes Director of Public Safety, Christopher Jagoe, who has 30 years of law enforcement experience, is a retired police chief and has attended the FBI National Academy. He said the community’s attitude toward police and may be changing due in part to the size of the search and its on-going nature.

“It’s a tough balancing act,” Jagoe said. “Unfortunately, I think a lot of its because it’s the miscommnuication to the community. The people are turning against the police… some would say it’s justifiable concerns… in the interest of apprehending this guy, some people’s rights are being stepped on.”

Zudjelovic agreed, saying it is a “very oppressive kind of feeling.”

“I think it’s sad when you go into an area and the locals don’t like their police department,” he said.

Collin Strunk, a P1 pharmacy major from Blakeslee, said that although publicity is helpful to finding Frein, he worries that the overall ordeal may have a negative influence on Pocono tourism.

“The area might be negatively affected by it though, seeing as the Poconos is a large tourist attraction. So the current situation could be deterring visitors from coming,” Strunk said.

Zudjelovic believes the situation has impacted local businesses, but not the overall Pocono tourism industry.

Jagoe said he understands the concerns and feelings of the local residents.

“I lived in Maryland when we had the Beltway sniper… I understand the angst the people in the community are feeling… You don’t know where the guy may be,” he said.

Jagoe explained that if the Frein case, or something like it, were to get closer to Wilkes, the university and local law enforcement would work to inform the community.

“If something like that did happen… we would obviously be feeding the community as much information as we possibly could…Text alerts, emails all those sorts of things would be in our tool box to pull out.”

According to an FBI poster, Frein was last seen with no facial hair and was wearing a brown and gold windbreaker, khaki shorts and sneakers. He was carrying a dark green backpack with black trim. He may have shaved his head on both sides, with longer hair on top.

As of press time on Sunday, Frein had not been captured.