MILTON — Blooming Grove is 117 miles east of Milton, but the anguish and grief over an ambush at a state police barracks there that killed one trooper and critically wounded another is felt here just the same.
“Stations are like a second home to most of us, and you think you are somewhat safe there,” said Trooper Richard Blair, public information officer with the state police at Milton. “For us, it’s like someone has broken into our home.”
Blair said there haven’t been directives to other barracks for safety or security following the late Friday night shooting that killed Cpl. Bryon Dickson and wounded Trooper Alex Douglass. He said there really doesn’t need to be.
“They realize we don’t need to be told to be careful,” Blair said of state police leaders. “You automatically go into alert when something like this happens. You automatically become more cautious. We will be vigilant and cautious coming in and out of the barracks.”
As of deadline Saturday, no shooting suspect or suspects were in custody, the Associated Press reported. State Police Commissioner Frank Noonan said the attack appeared directed at law enforcement and believe whomever is responsible is no longer in the area.
Noonan said Saturday the attack “has touched us to the core that such a thing could happen.”
That is what state police at Milton feel as well.
“It doesn’t matter whether we knew them or not,” Blair said of Dickson and Douglass. “It tugs at your heart, and it makes us concerned. Our families are concerned.”
The shooting highlights just how dangerous all police work is, every day, Blair said. Unlike other lines of work, the troopers cannot take bereavement time for their lost brothers. “That is what we do,” he said. “We still need to function. We still need to be there.”
On Saturday, Gov. Tom Corbett ordered all Pennsylvania flags in the Capitol Complex and at commonwealth facilities in Pike County to fly at half-staff to honor Dickson. He encouraged prayers for both Dickson and Douglass and their families, friends and colleagues.
“Every attack on an officer of the law is an attack on our state, our country and civilized society,” Corbett said in a statement. “The incident in Blooming Grove shows, once again, that our first responders face constant danger in order that the rest of us may live in peace and safety.”
Corbett also asked the public “to be patient as well as vigilant” as the manhunt and investigation into this incident continue.
Rep. Tom Marino, R-10 Lycoming County, said in a statement his first reaction to the news “was pure sadness.”
“Officers and troopers put themselves in harm’s way day in and day out, but it is their families that bear a burden as well,” Marino said. “The best thing our communities can do right now is seek to be supportive. We lost a trooper, another one is injured. Our deepest sympathies, thoughts and prayers are with them.”
Anyone with tips regarding the ambush at the Blooming Grove barracks is asked to call state police at (866) 326-7256.
PA Crime Stoppers offers a $20,000 reward for information leading to an arrest and conviction in this case. Call (800) 472-8477.