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Searchers say closing in on Pennsylvania police shooter suspect

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[September 22, 2014]  By Joe McDonald
 BLOOMING GROVE Pa. (Reuters) - Searchers found an assault rifle and ammunition hidden in the woods on the ninth day of a massive hunt for a man suspected of attacking two Pennsylvania state troopers, killing one of them, police said on Sunday.

Police said they believe they are closing in on Eric Frein, 31, who they describe as a survivalist, in a rugged area of forests, boulders and caves in the Poconos Mountains of Pennsylvania, where he could easily hide from heat-seeking sensors in helicopters.

Frein is the main suspect in the attack on the Blooming Grove state police barracks during a shift change on Sept. 12. Corporal Bryon Dickson, 38, died in the ambush and Trooper Alex Douglass, 31, was wounded.

"Frein planned for months or maybe years; planned his attack and his retreat," said Lieutenant Colonel Greg Bivens of the Pennsylvania state police at a news conference on Sunday.

"We are pushing him hard," Bivens said. "He's moving as we press him."

Helicopters and trackers with search dogs are part of the hunt, which involves hundreds of police from three states. People living in the remote, sparsely populated area have been warned not to go outdoors, but on Saturday police lifted a "shelter in place" order for people to stay inside.

Search teams found an AK-47 assault rifle, two magazines, an ammunition pouch and a significant number of rounds that they believe were either dropped or stashed about two or three miles from the shooting scene.

The weapon was not the one used in the attack on the troopers.

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Troopers from across the state along with other law enforcement agencies, including the FBI, have been searching more than a week for Frein, a Monroe County man who belonged to a role-playing group that dressed in Cold War military uniforms and assumed the parts of soldiers from Eastern European countries.

Frein's planning process included surveillance at the Blooming Grove barracks, Bivens said.

Heavily armed state troopers and SWAT teams in assault vehicles have been seen entering the roads, which were closed to the public, leading to the area where Frein had lived with his parents until a few weeks ago.

(Editing by Fiona Ortiz; Editing by Sandra Maler)

[ 2014 Thomson Reuters. All rights reserved.]

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