Eric Frein, the armed survivalist suspected of shooting two Pennsylvania state troopers who has evaded capture in the woods for nearly a month, participated in war reenactments as a variety of bad guys, but other members of the reenactor community want to make it clear that they're peaceable.
Vance Sheffer, a history teacher in Pennsylvania's Conewago Valley, told the York Daily Record that he and his war-reenacting buddies suffer when paramilitary preppers allegedly kill peace officers and give them all a bad name:
"Now we have to work that much harder because the perception is skewed because of that idiot," Sheffer said, referring to Eric Frein, the man wanted by state police for allegedly killing one trooper and injuring another on Sept. 12. Frein, according to news reports, was involved in World War II re-enacting for a period of time before he was charged in connection with a theft at a re-enactment in New York in 2004.
Many in the re-enacting and living history communities have spoken out against Frein, saying he's not representative of who they are or what they do.
But they're still worried about the impact he could have on their passion.
According to the Morning Call, another local paper, Frein played a nonspeaking German soldier in Lustig, a 2007 short film about a Nazi concentration camp atrocity. It was reportedly just one of his many reenactment roles:
Frein, 31, of Monroe County, has participated in World War II reenactments as a German soldier and in Cold War reenactments as an eastern European soldier, according to authorities. The FBI said Thursday he even has fought alongside Serbians in Africa.
Jud Spangler, another local reenactor who has worked his way up over the years to be a Nazi colonel, made clear to the Daily Record that his first concern was to see Frein apprehended and the violence ended. But he also was concerned about the damage scary hardcore wannabes like Frein could inflict on the community at large.
"Nobody cares that you saw The Great Escape 30 times," he said.
Still, Sheffer added, he and his ilk were used to fighting stereotypes. "I sort of go from the assumption that all of us, living historians, re-enactors, collectors ... we're all thrown together now because of that guy, with the general perception that if you like military stuff, you probably have a gear or two loose," he said.
Frein disappeared into the Poconos nearly a month ago and has not been seen since, despite a multi-agency manhunt. Just hours before allegedly killing one trooper and seriously injuring another, sniper-style, outside their barracks last month, Frein had texted a friend: "All is good."