SCRANTON, Pa. (AP) — Pennsylvania State Police are investigating an allegation by a dispatcher who was on duty during a fatal barracks ambush that her supervisor raped her in 2013 and police officials tried covering it up, an agency spokesman said Thursday.
The woman contended in a lawsuit filed last month that a trooper who supervised her at the Blooming Grove barracks raped and sexually harassed her and that state police officials subsequently orchestrated a campaign to keep her quiet because they wanted to protect the reputation of the force and the trooper.
“The Pennsylvania State Police takes the allegations … very seriously,” Cpl. Adam Reed, a state police spokesman, said Thursday. Asked whether anyone had been disciplined over the allegations in the suit, he said, “The internal investigation remains ongoing.”
The suit, initially filed in Lackawanna County Court, seeks unspecified monetary damages against state police and several current and former police officials. State police on Tuesday had the suit moved to federal court.
The woman was working at the Blooming Grove barracks on Sept. 12, 2014, when police say Eric Frein opened fire from a wooded area across the street, killing Cpl. Bryon Dickson II and critically injuring Trooper Alex Douglass.
Three days after the attack, investigators — still seeking to learn the identity of the sniper and the motive — asked the dispatcher “if she was aware of any conduct relating to the PSP which might have provided a motivating cause for the attacks,” the lawsuit said.
Specifically, she was asked whether “any personal, physical or sexual relationship existed between plaintiff” and her supervisor, the suit said.
The dispatcher told investigators that he had raped and sexual harassed her, the suit said.
Police wound up identifying Frein, an anti-government survivalist, as the shooter. Frein led police on a 48-day manhunt before his capture. He’s awaiting trial on capital murder charges.
Two months after the ambush, the dispatcher was summoned to a meeting with investigators and ordered to keep quiet about her allegations, the lawsuit said. The dispatcher said she wanted to pursue criminal charges against the trooper, the suit said, but her case was not seriously investigated and no charges were ever brought.
Instead, the lawsuit said, the defendants retaliated against her in an effort to “cause her to recant her allegations,” to make sure she didn’t tell anyone and to “create a chilling effect on others who would make similar allegations.”
The lawsuit said police made a bogus claim that she told two troopers she was offered $1 million to keep quiet.
The lawsuit also said troopers showed up at her house and told her she had been reported as suicidal. The woman’s boyfriend, who is also a member of the state police, told the troopers she wasn’t suicidal, but she was involuntarily committed to a mental hospital anyway, the lawsuit said. The woman was released from the hospital several hours later “as it was apparent that there was not and never had been any basis for a psychiatric commitment,” court documents said.
Later, when her workers’ compensation lawyer asked a lieutenant why the woman had been committed, he responded, “We take care of our own,” the suit said.
The Associated Press typically doesn’t identify people who say they’re victims of sexual abuse.
The lawsuit will have no bearing on the defense case in Frein’s murder trial, scheduled to begin next week with jury selection, said Frein’s lawyer, Michael Weinstein.
“We feel it’s not relevant at all,” Weinstein said Thursday. “We have no intention of utilizing it.”
The Times-Tribune of Scranton first reported on the suit.