MILFORD, Pa. (AP) — A state police trooper who was shot in a 2014 ambush that killed his colleague said Monday the “coward” who opened fire left him with debilitating injuries, choking up as he described his long, painful road to recovery.
Trooper Alex Douglass testified in the trial of Eric Frein, who’s charged with opening fire on the Blooming Grove barracks during a late-night shift change. The attack killed Cpl. Bryon Dickson II and critically wounded Douglass.
Frein avoided capture for 48 days before U.S. marshals caught him at an abandoned airplane hangar more than 20 miles (32 kilometers)from the shooting scene. He faces charges including murder of a law enforcement officer and terrorism and has pleaded not guilty.
Prosecutors say Frein targeted the troopers at random in an effort to spark a revolution.
Douglass was shot through both hips with a high-powered sniper’s rifle, leaving an exit wound the size of a silver dollar. He has undergone 18 surgeries to repair the damage but said he still has no feeling below one knee and must walk with a brace.
And he is incontinent, describing a severe burning sensation that feels like “taking a serrated knife and sticking it in your rectum and twisting.”
That’s when the fitness buff who once ran a 50-mile ultra-marathon broke down, glancing at Frein and asking for a tissue. Frein, who could face a death sentence if convicted, looked back at him with a blank stare.
After limping to the witness stand, Douglass told jurors how he had just gotten to work and was in the parking lot when he heard two loud bangs and a scream. He got off the phone with his girlfriend, drew his gun and began walking toward the front of the barracks, where the mortally wounded Dickson was lying face up on the sidewalk.
Douglass said he grabbed Dickson by the leg and was preparing to drag him into the barracks when “it felt like I got hit in the back with a baseball bat.” He opened the barracks door with his right hand, fell into the lobby and began crawling, trying to take himself out of the sniper’s line of fire.
“At that point I knew that either some coward or cowards were shooting at us from across the street,” he said.
A colleague dragged him through an interior door, where troopers began packing his wound while waiting for an ambulance.
“It was probably the worst pain you could imagine,” Douglass said. “It felt like your whole body was on fire.”
The trooper’s ordeal had just begun.
The bullet severely damaged his intestine and rectum, shattered his hip and thigh bone and left him with other injuries. He said he dropped from a “solid 180 pounds” to 135 in the months after the shooting. He had his latest surgery two months ago with “possibly more to go.”
Douglass’ testimony was the most anticipated of a trial in which prosecutors have introduced hundreds of pieces of evidence tying Frein to the crime. The prosecution plans to rest its case Tuesday.
Earlier Monday, jurors learned Frein did research on how to escape a manhunt more than a year before the attack.
The anti-government survivalist claimed to police on the night of his arrest that he had planned the sniper attack only a few days earlier, but his internet search history suggests he had been mulling it over for a lot longer. Other searches from May 2013 included “bug out cache” and “tips on placing caches,” presumably of food and other supplies.
Frein used the internet while he was on the run, too, performing dozens of searches of his own name, both alone and in conjunction with words like gun, evidence and manhunt. He sought out his wanted poster and did research on Dickson, according to the testimony.
And, prosecutors say, he wrote a letter to his parents.
The letter, read to jurors on Monday, was recovered from a computer thumb drive found at the hangar. Addressed to “Mom and Dad,” it spoke of revolution and said, “The time seems right for a spark to ignite a fire in the hearts of men.”
The author wrote: “I tried my best to do this thing without getting identified, but if you are reading this then I was not successful.”
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