The survivalist sharpshooter accused in the deadly ambush of a Pennsylvania police barracks is "not a psycho" but needs to "suffer the consequences" of his actions, his sister told NBC News on Wednesday.
Eric Matthew Frein, 31, is the target of a massive manhunt by police, who say the military buff appears to have "assumed the role" of an Eastern European soldier while carrying out a twisted fantasy.
"He did something messed up, but he's still a human and he has feelings," his sister, Tiffany Frein, 18, told NBC News as she tried to retrieve belongings from the family home in Canadensis, Pennsylvania, during a police search.
She said that getting the news that her older brother was the prime suspect in the Friday night shooting at the Blooming Grove barracks — where Cpl. Bryon Dickson, 38, was killed walking to his car and Trooper Alex Douglass was critically wounded trying to help him — was "terrifying" for her family.
"We're not trying to protect him. He has to suffer the consequences. But he's still our family," she said. "I don't know where he is or what he's doing. I hope it's a big misunderstanding."
State police say they have plenty of evidence: Frein's car found in the woods two miles from the barracks; shell casings found at his home that match the murder weapon; and writings that reveal a grudge against law enforcement and the government that stretched back to 2006.
"He has to suffer the consequences. But he is still our family."
Frein's father, a retired Army major, told investigators he taught his son to shoot and that he later joined the high-school rifle team. "He doesn't miss," the dad said, according to a police affidavit.
Friends of Frein told NBC News that he was a military re-enactor who used to dress up as a German soldier from World War II for simulations. More recently, he belonged to a simulation unit in eastern Pennsylvania whose members posed as soldiers from Serbia and other parts of Eastern Europe, police said.
State Police Lt. Col. George Bevins said Frein appears to have "assumed that role in real life." He recently shaved his head on both sides in a modified Mohawk as "mental preparation to commit this cowardly act," Bevins said.
Police admitted they have no idea where Frein — whom they described as a self-taught "survivalist" — is hiding. Some schools have been closed during the manhunt and authorities are urging residents to keep house and vehicle doors and windows locked.
At a Wednesday afternoon news conference, as Dickson's family was preparing for his wake, Bevins delivered this message to Frein: "I want you to know one thing, Eric. We are coming for you. It is only a matter of time."
Frein lived at home with his parents. Although police said he had written about his anger toward the government and police on social media, those postings could not be found.
His sister said he kept to himself.
"He's not a psycho," she said. "He was a good guy to me, at least. Last time my mom talked to him he was happy. So we don't know where this is coming from."
But Jeremiah Hornbaker, who worked with Frein on several film productions and last spoke to him in June, said the fugitive made no secret of his views — to a point.
"Definitely, he could be very critical of the government. He voiced his opinions, had strong feelings — but nothing like, 'I'm going to go out and kill people and commit mass murder,'" Hornbaker said.