Flags will one day soon return to full mast for Pennsylvania State Police Cpl. Bryon Dickson, 38, and, when writing about the 31-year-old surviving trooper, some young reporter will likely forget to add a second “s” to Alex Douglass’ last name.
The hunt for the fugitive accused cop killer will continue until he’s captured – or not.
Maybe his bones will surface one day years from now in the lush Pocono wilderness where police search because they say they believe he’s there. Maybe he’ll turn up in a militias bunker in Montana. Maybe he’ll emerge from a mountain cave, hold his hands high and surrender.
All roads lead to the 31-year-old self-styled survivalist and expert marksman who police say ambushed two troopers in the late-night darkness of shift change at the rural Blooming Grove barracks.
But the truth is that police seem no closer to bringing him in or bringing him down than they were three weeks ago when fear and mystery gripped our region and the FBI put Frein on its ten most wanted list and offered a $100,000 reward.
Crime Stoppers offered a $75,000 reward.
Bounty hunters snarled from their lairs.
Media in-laws and outlaws growled. Some members of the press were more trouble than they are worth. A British tabloid reported a salacious rumor the alleged reporter could not prove. America’s laziest columnist covered a commuter tax meeting when reporters and commentators around the country all but parachuted into his beat.
And I took heat because I refused to stray from the story of an alleged domestic terrorist who, if guilty, assassinated a cop with a sniper rifle and then disappeared.
Some listeners said they were bored, that the entertainment value of talk radio had dulled their already dull senses. Some fringe conspiracy theorists saw bats in the night and called them helicopters. Others actively defended the alleged shooter, calling his reaction basic “blowback” in a “police state” where militarized government agents strip liberty from our Constitution with the ease of a Boy Scout stripping bark from a birch tree to make a soft mountain tea.
Fools all, they contribute only to heartache and frustration, angering those of us who see the attack as a craven assault on decency, justice, law and order.
Emails and text messages also attacked.
My father became a target.
I remembered “Shamus” and an honor guard of state police pall bearers carrying a legend to his grave as taps blew through the rain and the young troopers gently laid him to rest forever.
Death finally retired “Shamus,” who was all cop all the time.
After 34 years with the state police, as one of the most highly decorated members of the force, the man who received the first governor’s citation for heroism and who came within a hair of being killed in the line of duty, Shamus left the job not knowing what else to do.
Shamus was always a cop – an honorable and courageous member of an elite unit.
Living my father’s legacy means living Dickson’s legacy as well. I am duty-bound to carry my father in my heart and mind. Now I carry some of Dickson’s spirit as well. I must take a piece of what he was, what made him good and brave and decent, and carry that strength with me as I live my life each day.
I urge you to do the same.
Of course, Frein matters. But Dickson, Douglass and the other members of the PSP matter more. Our society depends far more on them than him. Frein is desperate, a lost animal who will likely one day surface.
If not, so be it.
What will live forever is the legacy of honor - theirs, ours, not his.
Frein goes down in history as just another pathetic and dangerous loser.
That’s why I stand with PSP in the ongoing hunt as well as in their quest to live each day the legacy of those who went before. That’s why I dismiss and denounce critics as those who are unable, unwilling or both to understand what it takes to be a good cop, a state trooper, a man or woman who daily risks it all to do the job.
That’s what staties call it - the job – a job that for those who understand is forever sacred – a job that is always so very much more than just a job.
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