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Manhunt for Pa. survivalist ambusher enters ninth day

Pennsylvania state police lifted a stay-in-place order for Ponoco Mountain residents Saturday night but urged residents to keep doors locked, keep their yards well-lit, and report suspicious persons or vehicles.

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Nine days after a gunman opened fire in a deadly ambush at a state police barracks, authorities have had no contact with the suspect they describe as a self-taught survivalist despite an intensive search that shut down the heavily wooded community where he lived with his parents.

Though a shelter-in-place order had been lifted in the Pocono Mountains community where police have focused their search, they continued to urge residents to be vigilant Sunday as the manhunt continues for Eric Frein.

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A state police spokesman said no contact had been made with Frein, who was placed on the FBI's Most Wanted list after the Sept. 12 shooting at a nearby police barracks that left one trooper dead and a second wounded.

Police on Friday descended on the community where Frein, 31, had lived with his parents, ordering residents to stay inside their homes and preventing anyone outside the neighborhood from returning to their homes. Law enforcement officers wearing bulletproof vests and armed with rifles scoured the woods as helicopters buzzed overhead.

Late Saturday night, police lifted their order to stay inside but urged residents to keep doors locked, keep their yards well-lit and report suspicious persons or vehicles. They should also stay out of the dense, boggy woodlands where the search was underway, authorities said.

Trooper Tom Kelly, a state police spokesman, said a report of gunfire on Friday night was not linked to the search.

Authorities say Frein used a high-powered rifle to kill Cpl. Bryon Dickson – a married ex-Marine with two sons – and wound Trooper Alex Douglass outside the barracks in Blooming Grove.

Though police described Frein as a survivalist with a grudge against police, some who know him said he has not always played the loner.

Frein joined a group that performed military re-enactments of Eastern European conflicts in the modern era and played a small role in a 2007 movie about a concentration camp survivor – earning him a mention in the movie database IMDb. He also helped with props and historical references on a documentary about World War I.

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"He was a very friendly guy to me," said Jeremy Hornbaker, who hired him for the documentary. "We left on very good terms."

Frein's father, retired Army Maj. E. Michael Frein, told police that he had taught his son to shoot. He "doesn't miss," the father told state police during a search of the family home, when he also disclosed that an AK-47 and a .308 rifle with a scope were missing. A copy of the book, "Sniper Training and Employment," was found in his bedroom.

Frein's only known legal problems stemmed from the 2004 theft of some vendor items at a World War II re-enactment in Odessa, New York. He failed to show for his trial, and was arrested in Pennsylvania as a fugitive from justice.

The FBI's Most Wanted poster describes him as 6-foot-1, 165 pounds. State police said he apparently cut his hair into a wide Mohawk in preparation for the attack. He was also described as a heavy smoker.

The majority of survivalists are not considered dangerous, writes the Monitor's Patrik Jonsson.

For the most part, survivalists – or disaster-prepared 'preppers,' as they like to call themselves – are interested mostly in indulging useful fantasies about 'bug-out' packs and other necessary items to have and know how to use if there is a major societal disturbance that leads to uncontrolled unrest.

But their world view – which The Washington Post’s Justin Moyer describes as fusing “millennialism, Second Amendment and hard-money advocacy, environmentalism and racism” – can also lead some such thinkers into lonely, dark corners, where the ends may begin to justify the means, says one survivalism expert.

'There are rare but real dangers in the acts of a tiny minority of racists, antigovernment activists, and anarchist [attackers],' Richard Mitchell, author of 'Dancing at Armageddon: Survivalism and Chaos in Modern Times,' said in an interview with the University of Chicago Press. 'But when genuine violence and conflicts occur they come from outside survivalism, from … individuals separated not only from conventional associations but also from survivalist organizations that these individuals deem unfocused, equivocating, convocations of mere putter-planning.'