At Frein trial, details about the panicked moments after a Pa. state trooper was gunned down

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MILFORD, Pa. — Trooper William Fells had finished his duties for the day and sat down to watch TV for the last few minutes of his shift at the state police barracks in Blooming Grove when he heard a noise that sounded like a gunshot.

No one else in the room reacted. “I thought maybe someone dropped something, I misheard it, and I went back to flipping through the channels on the TV,” he said.

When a dispatcher came to tell him two troopers had been shot and he looked out to see them lying on the ground, he said, he began shouting “expletives.”

Then Fells, a former Marine, jumped into action.

His testimony about panicked moments inside a barracks under siege night came on the second day of the death penalty trial of Eric Frein, who is accused of the sniper-style attack on the barracks in Sept 2014 that killed one trooper and wounded another.

Fells and others who worked at the barracks recounted the scene that night, as troopers realized they were under attack and rushed to secure the barracks and rescue their colleagues.

“We didn’t know what was going on or where the shooter was, for sure,” Fells said.

Frein, 33, is charged with first-degree murder, terrorism, and other crimes in the death of Cpl. Bryon Dickson and the shooting of Trooper Alex Douglass at the barracks that night. Frein, of Canadensis, eluded capture during a 48-day manhunt in the Poconos, drawing national attention and more than 1,000 law enforcement officers to Pike and Monroe Counties.

Frein, who is not expected to testify at trial, sat listening intently to witnesses Tuesday morning and taking notes on a legal pad.

On the first day of trial Tuesday, jurors heard a detailed and graphic account of the shooting from prosecutors during opening arguments and emotional testimony from a state police dispatcher who first discovered Dickson had been shot and saw him mouth the words “help me” to her as he lay on the sidewalk in front of the state police barracks in Blooming Grove.

Trooper Benjamin Jones, another person inside the barracks the night of the shooting, testified that he tried to pack Douglass’s wounds after they dragged him inside.

Prosecutors played an audio recording from state police radio of the panic inside the room where Douglass and Dickson lay.

“Where’s the f-ing ambulance?” Douglass is heard yelling as another trooper rushed to but down blinds to secure windows.

Dickson, meanwhile, was unresponsive as fellow troopers performed CPR, Jones said.​

A dispatcher had found him outside the barracks where, trying to lift his head, moving his eyes back and forth, and making gurgling sounds as a lung filled with blood, according to testimony on Tuesday. “Help me,” he mouthed to the dipatcher.


In his brief opening statement Tuesday, Frein’s defense attorney called the deadly ambush and standoff “a tragedy I don’t know how this county will ever recover from.” 

The lawyer, Michael Weinstein, said Frein would not testify, and he did not seek to explain or rebut accounts of the alleged crimes. He simply asked the jury to remember that Frein must be presumed innocent unless proved otherwise.

“That cloak of innocence remains on that defendant unless and until the commonwealth can remove it,” Weinstein said. “Hold them to that responsibility.”

The trial is expected to last five weeks in Pike County’s historic courthouse. A jury from Chester County will determine Frein’s fate and will be sequestered here for five nights a week.  

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