MILFORD, Pa. (AP) — State police troopers on Wednesday described for a jury how they responded in the chaotic minutes and hours after a sniper targeted their barracks, shooting two troopers from a wooded area across the street during a late-night shift change.
Five troopers gave a dramatic inside look at the Sept. 12, 2014, ambush that killed Cpl. Bryon Dickson II and wounded Trooper Alex Douglass just before 11 p.m. on what had otherwise been a routine night at the Blooming Grove barracks in northeastern Pennsylvania.
The testimony came on the second day of trial for 33-year-old Eric Frein, who’s pleaded not guilty in the attack. Frein eluded capture for nearly seven weeks before U.S. marshals caught him at an abandoned airplane hangar.
Prosecutors are seeking the death penalty.
Troopers sprang into action as word spread that Dickson and Douglass had been shot. They grabbed shotguns and rifles and quickly improvised a rescue plan for Dickson, who was lying on the sidewalk in front of the barracks.
Knowing the gunman might still be in the woods — waiting to target anyone who tried to come to Dickson’s assistance — the troopers parked an SUV in front of Dickson and used the vehicle as cover to allow them to drag the mortally wounded trooper into the barracks.
By the time they got him inside, Dickson had turned white, and his mouth and eyes were open. Troopers told the jury they knew he was dead even as they tried to revive him.
Trooper Robert Golden testified he slapped Dickson — a fellow Marine veteran — and called his name to get a response.
“I was looking for any signs of life. Just looking into his eyes, there was nothing,” Golden said.
He wanted Dickson’s body covered with an American flag but had to make due with a yellow emergency blanket.
“Dickson was a Marine. It’s just a proper way to take care of our dead,” he said.
Other troopers tended to Douglass, who was tending to his fallen comrade in the parking lot when the gunman shot him in the pelvis. Douglass managed to crawl inside the lobby, yelling for help.
Prosecutors played a radio transmission in which Douglass can be heard breathing heavily and cursing, requesting a drink and asking when an ambulance would arrive.
He was eventually flown to a hospital and survived.
Prosecutors have said Frein targeted the barracks at random in an attempt to spark a revolution. Frein called Dickson’s slaying an “assassination” in an interview after his arrest and said he wanted to “make a change” in government, according to court documents.
Authorities said Frein fled after firing the shots. But the troopers at the barracks didn’t know that at the time.
One trooper covered the back stairwell with instructions to shoot anyone who wasn’t authorized to be there. Golden shut the blinds and turned off the lights. Other troopers fired into the woods as emergency medical technicians loaded Douglass into an ambulance, according to testimony.
“I thought someone was trying to take over our barracks,” Golden said.
Troopers and civilian staff eventually left in an armored vehicle. A few hours later, forensics investigators arrived to process the crime scene. The station commander, several corporals and Golden stood over Dickson’s body, and the commander said a prayer. They put the body into a bag and took it to a command post, then to the coroner’s office and eventually to a funeral home.
By that time, the sun had come up. Golden had stayed with him the whole time.
“I was properly relieved of safeguarding Cpl. Dickson’s body,” he said.