Hundreds of mourners, including law enforcement officers from around the country, are gathering in Scranton, Pennsylvania, for the funeral of a state trooper amid a mood of grief and fear as a manhunt continues 40 miles away for the killer, identified as a self-taught survivalist who hates police.
Cpl. Bryon Dickson, 38, was gunned down late Friday outside a rural barracks in the Pocono Mountains. Another trooper was wounded in the ambush that touched off a massive manhunt for Eric Frein, 31, identified Tuesday as the suspect.
Dickson's viewing Wednesday, in the rotunda of Scranton's Marywood University, drew a crowd that snaked around the block, with Pennsylvania's attorney general among the mourners. Gov. Tom Corbett plans to attend Dickson's funeral Thursday at St. Peter's Cathedral in Scranton.
The Marine Corps veteran, who joined the state police in 2007 and had worked as a patrol unit supervisor in the Blooming Grove barracks since June, is survived by his wife of 10 years and two young sons.
Randy Millhouse, owner of the Promised Land Inn with his wife, put up a sign outside that said "RIP CRPL BRYON DICKSON," one of many such public displays of honor, respect and grief for the fallen lawman.
"I was devastated because I have troopers that come in here for dinner and lunch," Millhouse said. "I was pretty well shook up, and still am until they catch him," he said, referring to the gunman who police believe is hiding somewhere in the dense forest punctuated by private communities, vacation homes and hunting cabins.
As Dickson is laid to rest, the search for his killer will have entered its sixth day.
On Wednesday, authorities chased down several false sightings in their hunt for Frein, who had shaved his head in a wide Mohawk sometime before the shooting as "part of the mental preparation to commit this cowardly act," Lt. Col. George Bivens said Wednesday afternoon.
Frein belonged to a military simulation unit based in eastern Pennsylvania whose members play the role of soldiers from Cold War-era eastern Europe, Bivens told reporters.
"In his current frame of mind, Frein appears to have assumed that role in real life," he said.
Police named Frein the suspect after finding his abandoned SUV, which contained his driver's license and spent shell casings matching those at the crime scene.
State police have warned the public that Frein, of Canadensis in northeastern Pennsylvania, is dangerous, calling him an anti-law enforcement survivalist who has talked about committing mass murder.
Two school districts closed Wednesday because of safety concerns for students and staff. Some public, parochial and charter schools in at least two school districts will be closed Thursday. Other area schools will hold recess, physical education classes and football practice inside.
"Parents are so frightened for their children," said Pocono Mountain School Board member Annabella Lastowski.
Bivens said residents should remain "alert and vigilant," report suspicious activity, lock doors and keep house exteriors well lit. But he said he is "convinced Frein is engaged in a personal battle with law enforcement, particularly the Pennsylvania State Police, and likely will stay focused on that fight."