Court: Pennsylvania can’t keep guns in trooper ambush case

Aug 30, 2022, 12:44 PM | Updated: 9:32 pm

Pennsylvania cannot keep a cache of weapons seized from the parents of a gunman who killed one state trooper and permanently disabled another eight years ago, a federal appeals court ruled Tuesday.

The parents of Eric Frein sued after authorities refused to return 25 rifles, 19 pistols and two shotguns that were taken from their home in September 2014, days after Frein ambushed the troopers outside a state police barracks in the Pocono Mountains.

Eugene Michael Frein and Deborah Frein were not charged in their son’s crime — for which he was convicted and sentenced to death — and none of their weapons were used in his deadly late-night assault.

The Pike County district attorney, who was named as a defendant in the parents’ suit, had argued that authorities had the right to hold the seized weapons, saying they might be needed as evidence during Eric Frein’s state and federal appeals.

The Philadelphia-based 3rd U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals disagreed, saying in its ruling Tuesday that state authorities never used Michael and Deborah’s guns as evidence at their son’s trial and violated the parents’ constitutional rights by holding onto them indefinitely.

Curt Parkins, the Freins’ attorney, called the seizure a “terrible case of government overreach.”

“It’s really the government being vindictive,” Parkins said in a telephone interview. The Freins, he said, were “punished for being the parents of Eric Frein.”

State police declined to comment on the ruling, which overturned a lower court decision to dismiss the parents’ lawsuit. A message was sent to the district attorney seeking comment.

The state seized the Freins’ property without compensation in violation of the Fifth Amendment, and hindered their ability to keep firearms in violation of the Second Amendment, the appeals court said.

“The police understandably seized the parents’ guns in 2014 while a killer was still at large. But he has long since been captured and convicted, and his conviction has been affirmed,” the panel wrote in its decision. “The judicial warrant does not authorize keeping the guns past this point.”

The state would have to get another warrant to justify keeping the parents’ property, which the district attorney’s office conceded was unlikely because of a lack of probable cause, the court said.

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

Frein was captured after a 48-day manhunt. He was convicted and sentenced to death, though Pennsylvania has a moratorium on executions.

Copyright © The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.


Republican presidential candidates, former New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie, left, talking with forme...

Associated Press

The GOP debate field was asked about Trump. But most of the stage’s attacks focused on Nikki Haley

The four Republican presidential candidates debating Wednesday night mostly targeted each other instead of Donald Trump.

2 days ago

Law enforcement officers head into the University of Nevada, Las Vegas, campus after reports of an ...

Associated Press

Police say 3 dead, fourth wounded and shooter also dead in University of Nevada, Las Vegas attack

Police said a suspect was found dead Wednesday as officers responded to an active shooter and reports of multiple victims at UNLV.

2 days ago

President Joe Biden's son, Hunter Biden, leaves after a court appearance, July 26, 2023, in Wilming...

Associated Press

Republicans threaten contempt proceedings if Hunter Biden refuses to appear for deposition

House Republicans are threatening to hold Hunter Biden in contempt if he does not show up this month for a closed-door deposition.

2 days ago

Sen. Tommy Tuberville, R-Ala., listens to a question during a news conference, March 30, 2022, in W...

Associated Press

Tuberville is ending blockade of most military nominees, clearing way for hundreds to be approved

Sen. Tommy Tuberville announced Tuesday that he's ending his blockade of hundreds of military promotions, following heavy criticism.

3 days ago

An employee works inside the Hanwha Qcells Solar plant on Oct. 16, 2023, in Dalton, Ga. On Tuesday,...

Associated Press

US job openings fall to lowest level since March 2021 as labor market cools

U.S. employers posted 8.7 million job openings in October, the fewest since March 2021, in a sign that hiring is cooling.

3 days ago

Megyn Kelly poses at The Hollywood Reporter's 25th annual Women in Entertainment Breakfast, Dec. 7,...

Associated Press

The fourth GOP debate will be a key moment for the young NewsNation cable network

By airing the fourth Republican presidential debate, NewsNation network will almost certainly reach the largest audience in its history.

3 days ago

Sponsored Articles

Follow @iamdamonallred...

Avoid a potential emergency and get your home’s heating and furnace safety checked

With the weather getting colder throughout the Valley, the best time to make sure your heating is all up to date is now. 

Follow @KTAR923...

The best ways to honor our heroes on Veterans Day and give back to the community

Veterans Day is fast approaching and there's no better way to support our veterans than to donate to the Military Assistance Mission.


Desert Institute for Spine Care

Desert Institute for Spine Care (DISC) wants to help Valley residents address back, neck issues through awake spine surgery

As the weather begins to change, those with back issues can no longer rely on the dry heat to aid their backs. That's where DISC comes in.

Court: Pennsylvania can’t keep guns in trooper ambush case