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Trooper describes gun injuries left by 'coward' in Eric Frein trial

Written by Mark Gillespie/The Associated Press | Apr 18, 2017 4:47 AM
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Photo by AP Photo/Rich Schultz

(Milford) -- Alex Douglass used to be 180 pounds of muscle and sinew, a CrossFit and running enthusiast who ran a 50-mile ultra-marathon when he wasn't working his day job as a state police trooper.

All of that was ended by a sniper's bullet.

Douglass survived the ambush that took his comrade's life on Sept. 12, 2014, but the devastating wounds caused by that single rifle shot still haven't healed. On Monday, Douglass got the chance to confront his alleged assailant, describing years of pain and rehabilitation for a jury weighing capital murder charges against the man he called a coward.

"I started back into CrossFit," explained Douglass, who has a replacement hip and walks with a brace on his foot. "It's not like it used to be."

Limping to the witness stand, Douglass testified against Eric Frein, the anti-government marksman and survivalist who prosecutors say targeted the Blooming Grove barracks in hopes of sparking a revolution against the government. Frein allegedly hid in the woods across the street and shot Douglass and Cpl. Bryon Dickson II during a late-night shift change. He was caught after a 48-day manhunt.

Douglass was shot through both hips as he tried to rescue his mortally wounded comrade, the .308-caliber bullet 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.

He's also incontinent, the result of a perforated intestine and devastating injuries to his rectum. He described a severe burning sensation that feels like "taking a serrated knife and sticking it in your rectum and twisting."

He choked up, 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.

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.

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 Dickson -- who'd just left the barracks after working his shift -- 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 bullet shattered Douglass's 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."

Frein has said he didn't know Douglass or Dickson before the attack, telling police after his capture that he chose to ambush the Blooming Grove barracks because it's surrounded by woods and offered good cover.

In a letter to his parents that was read to the jury on Monday, Frein complained about the loss of liberty, spoke of a 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."

*Below is an earlier version of this story*

(Milford) -- A Pennsylvania state police trooper who was shot in a 2014 ambush says the "coward" who opened fire has left him with debilitating injuries.

Trooper Alex Douglass testified Monday in the trial of Eric Frein, who's charged with opening fire on the Blooming Grove barracks. Corporal Bryon Dickson II was killed. Douglass was critically wounded.

Douglass says he was trying to drag the mortally wounded Dickson into the barracks when he felt as though he "got hit in the back with a baseball bat."

Douglass has undergone 18 surgeries. He choked up as he described the pain he still endures.

Frein faces charges including murder of a law enforcement officer and terrorism. He could face a death sentence if convicted. He has pleaded not guilty.

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