Jury sentences ambush killer to death in Pennsylvania

A bell tolled the fate of a gunman after a jury on Wednesday condemned him to die for shooting two Pennsylvania troopers at their barracks in a late-night ambush, killing one and leaving a second with devastating injuries.

Eric Frein, 33, was sentenced by a jury to death by lethal injection a week after his conviction on charges including murder of a law enforcement officer and terrorism.

“Jurors have delivered full justice in this case and issued the penalty that is so richly deserved by Eric Frein,” said District Attorney Ray Tonkin.

Prosecutors said Frein was hoping to start an uprising against the government when he opened fire with a rifle on the Blooming Grove barracks in the Pocono Mountains in 2014. Cpl. Bryon Dickson II, a Marine veteran and married father of two, was killed in the late-night ambush, and Trooper Alex Douglass was critically wounded.

Frein showed no emotion as the decision was read, while someone on the police side of the gallery shouted “Yes!” Douglass, who has endured 18 surgeries and might lose his lower leg, couldn’t stop smiling.

Defense lawyer Bill Ruzzo told reporters he was disappointed by the sentence, and surprised the jury failed to find a single mitigating circumstance that would point to a life sentence.

Col. Tyree Blocker, the state police commissioner, thanked the jury for delivering justice.

“Cpl. Dickson will always remain in the hearts of all members of the Pennsylvania State Police, forever,” he said outside the courthouse.

Following a tradition that dates to the 19th century, Pike County’s sheriff rang the bell atop the courthouse eight times, heralding that Frein had received a death sentence. The bell last tolled for a condemned inmate in the 1980s.

Frein led police on a 48-day manhunt in the Poconos before U.S. marshals caught him at an abandoned airplane hangar.

He did not take the witness stand in his own defense, nor did he ask the jury to spare his life in the penalty phase. His lawyers had argued for a sentence of life in prison without parole, presenting evidence he’d grown up in a dysfunctional home. His father told the jurors he had failed his son, and his mother said, “I want my son to be saved.”

Prosecutors portrayed Frein as a remorseless killer who randomly attacked in hopes of fomenting rebellion.

Frein kept a journal in which he coolly described shooting Dickson twice and watching him fall “still and quiet.” And in a letter to his parents, written while he was on the run but never sent, he complained about lost liberties, spoke of revolution and said, “The time seems right for a spark to ignite a fire in the hearts of men.”

Frein showed “wickedness of heart” when he “made a choice to pull that cold trigger again, again, again and again,” Tonkin said in his closing argument Wednesday.

The sentencing caps a saga that began Sept. 12, 2014, when Frein hid in the woods across the street from the barracks and targeted Dickson as he was leaving work. He then shot Douglass,…

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