By Walt Hunter
PHILADELPHIA (CBS) — Speaking out for the first time, in an exclusive interview with CBS 3’s Walt Hunter, FBI Special Agent in Charge Ed Hanko provided a “behind the scenes” look at the search for accused killer Eric Frein, now under arrest and charged with murdering State Police Cpl. Bryon Dickson and wounding Trooper Alex Douglass. Agent Hanko commanding FBI agents in the search that included Pennsylvania State Police and agents from numerous other federal agencies and police departments.
“We felt in our heart that if we allowed him to escape from that area, no doubt he would kill another officer,” Hanko told Hunter, explaining the urgency of the 48 day search.
“Every time we had a sighting, we had a rush of adrenaline, hoping against hope, were going to catch him this time,” Hanko said.
“That was the thing, that was the roller coaster ride for us.”
From the moment the troopers were ambushed, Hanko revealed, searchers never took a minute off, working 24/7 in near zero visibility because of trees and bushes.
“You could literally walk into the woods and not see eight feet in front of you,” Hanko related.
Frein, Hanko said, used every trick he knew to elude searchers, in woodlands where he had grown up.
“He would spend weeks roaming the area, actually playing soldier and sniper,” Hanko said.
But in the end, Hanko revealed, Frein make one seemingly small mistake that helped seal his fate. Trying to elude a roadblock, set up moments after he allegedly gunned down the troopers, he shut off his headlights as he raced his Jeep towards the woods.
“In his mind, he thought, if his lights were on, they would find him,” Hanko explained.
But instead of finding safety in the woods, Frein’s jeep plunged into a pond, where it was found, giving searchers the crucial clue they need to identify him.
“Bad luck for the bad guy, good luck for the good guys,” Hanko concluded.
And, weeks later, Hanko recalled the first words from searchers as he learned Frein had been surprised and caught, not far from an abandoned hangar where the discovery of still more weapons indicated he was still prepared to fight.
“We got him, he’s arrested, no one’s injured, they told me,” Hanko recalled.
“In my mind, the greatest thing, we didn’t have any more loss of life.”
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