In the line of duty: Remembering Pocono officers who died on the job
Be it by a hidden sniper, a metal mop handle, deadly gunfire or a cornered suspect, the last century has seen the service of several Pocono law enforcement officers cut short.
Their names belong to a growing list of those killed in the line of duty, commemorated every May 15 for Peace Officers Memorial Day. President John F. Kennedy first issued a proclamation for the memorial day in 1962 to ensure their service and sacrifice would not be forgotten.
Bryon Dickson II, Eric Williams, Joshua Miller, William Evans, Samuel Van Auken, George Knapp, Joseph McHugh and Adam Strunk are among more than 22,000 names inscribed in the National Law Enforcement Officer Memorial Wall in Washington D.C.
Their stories are memorialized in newspaper clippings and photographs across the internet, and are retold here using records from the Pennsylvania State Troopers Association, the Officer Down Memorial non-profit organization and newspaper archives.
2014: Bryon Keith Dickson II, 38
Pennsylvania State Trooper
Cpl. Dickson stepped outside of the Blooming Grove station in Pike County just before 11 p.m. on Sept. 12, 2014. Yards away, Eric Frein crouched in the brush and aimed a .308 semiautomatic rifle.
With Dickson in his crosshairs, he pulled the trigger.
Frein struck the corporal and continued to shoot, wounding another trooper who tried pulling Dickson to safety. The 38-year-old husband and father of two died as Frein fled from the wooded barracks.
Officers used Dickson's handcuffs to restrain Frein when he was captured at last near an abandoned Pocono airfield after a 7-week manhunt. Frein was convicted of capital murder of a law enforcement officer and sentenced to death in 2017.
Dickson was a U.S. Marine Corps veteran and served with the Pennsylvania State Police for seven years. He is survived by his wife and two sons.
The Blooming Grove exit on Interstate 84 was renamed in honor of the corporal in 2015.
“A trooper will give his life to save yours," said State Police Commissioner Frank Noonan at Dickson's funeral. "He was the epitome of that."
2013: Eric Williams, 34
Senior Corrections Officer, USP Canaan
Senior Officer Williams, who was 34 at the time, was working alone on his shift the evening of February 25, 2013, supervising 130 inmates at the high-security facility.
Among them was inmate Jessie Con-ui, who was serving an 11-year prison sentence stemming from his role in a drug ring run by the New Mexican Mafia prison gang. Following that sentence, he was to begin serving a life sentence for a murder in Arizona.
Con-ui, armed with two hand-made, sharpened weapons known as shanks, kicked Eric down a flight of stairs and stabbed him 203 times, over the course of 11 minutes.
Since then, his father Don Williams and several politicians have been fighting to make federal prisons a safer place to work.
On January 13, U.S. Rep. Matt Cartwright (PA-8) announced more than $180 million in additional funding for the Federal Bureau of Prisons (BOP) in the 2023 Government Spending Package. This increased funding will specifically be used to sustain and increase BOP recruitment and hiring efforts nationwide.
Several measures have been implemented since Williams' death, including allowing federal prison employees to carry pepper spray for self defense.
Senator Patrick Toomey (R-PA) sponsored a bill dubbed "Eric's Law" that would allow prosecutors to impanel a second jury for sentencing if the first jury failed to reach a unanimous decision on the death penalty, at a capital sentencing hearing.
Although the legislation twice fell short of reaching a vote, Senator Ted Cruz (R-TX) reintroduced the bill on March 1, 2023.
2009: Joshua Daniel Miller, 34
Pennsylvania State Trooper
In June of 2009, a kidnapping suspect accused of taking a 9-year-old boy from his mother fled from Nazareth police officers and led them on a 40-mile car chase. Members of the Pennsylvania State Police met him in Coolbaugh Township.
There, troopers utilized what's called a PIT maneuver: a pursuit intervention technique that can force a fleeing car into a crashing halt. When 34-year-old Miller and another trooper approached the car to rescue the child, the suspect began to shoot.
He struck both officers. Miller was shot in the neck and leg, and his partner in the arm, but they returned fire while other troopers carried the boy from the passenger seat to safety. The suspect was killed in the shootout, and Miller died of his wounds later in a local hospital.
"He grinned ear-to-ear whenever he spoke about his wife and three daughters," said Col. Frank Pawlowski, commissioner of the Pennsylvania State Police, at Miller's funeral.
Miller served with the state police for six years and was a military veteran. Route 611 in Coolbaugh Township — where the shooting occurred — was renamed in his honor.
1983: William Evans, 44
Pennsylvania State Trooper
Evans patrolled an icy Route 209 in Monroe County in early 1983. At about 9 a.m. on January 6, he turned on his cruiser's flashing lights to investigate an accident near Snydersville, gaining speed and losing purchase of the road.
He skidded across a grassy median and struck a van head-on. The van belonged to United Cerebral Palsy of Lehigh Valley and was carrying five mentally and physically disabled passengers to an activities workshop in the Poconos.
Evans, a husband and father of three, was pronounced dead at the scene. A passenger in the van died in the hospital following the accident.
Evans enlisted in the Pennsylvania State Police at 27 following four years in the U.S. Navy, and is buried at St. Mary's Cemetery in Wilkes-Barre with full military honors. A memorial scholarship fund was dedicated in his memory to help the families of law enforcement officers.
1974: Samuel Van Auken, 61
Monroe County Jail Correctional Officer
Samuel Van Auken stood guard at the Monroe County Jail in 1974 when four men were arrested for a burglary in Stroudsburg. Among the four suspects was an escaped New Jersey inmate who gave police a fake name to hide his identity.
The 22-year-old inmate asked to make a phone call and was escorted to the jail office to place the call. Once inside, he attacked.
He beat Van Auken and another guard with a steel mop handle, fatally fracturing Van Auken's skull and wounding the other guard. A cook at the jail, Anna Lee, alerted Stroudsburg police and attacked the inmate with a chair before he could escape a second time.
Van Auken underwent emergency surgery in Allentown but died around midnight the same day.
The inmate was convicted of first-degree murder and sentenced to life in prison. Van Auken had served as the weekend jail guard for seven years and was a World War II veteran. Students within the Stroudsburg Area School District knew the guard as "Uncle Sammy."
1923: George Knapp, 62
Assistant Wayne County Detective
George Knapp and another detective approached a remote farm near Equinunk to investigate reports that the man who lived there was operating an illegal moonshine business.
As the pair drew closer, a man fired a rifle at them from inside and warned that they "would never take him alive," the Montrose Democrat reported in 1923.
Knapp turned to retreat but was shot once in the chest and killed instantly. His partner was shot two times but managed to escape from the scene and call for help. Before officers arrived, the man in the home committed suicide.
Knapp was 62 and a father of six. He also served with the Honesdale Borough Police Department.
1915: Joseph McHugh, 40
Pennsylvania Game Commission, Game Protector
Joseph McHugh was shot and killed as he searched Carbon County woods for poachers in 1915. He encountered a 19-year-old man illegally hunting rabbits who "jumped backwards, brought the gun up from the hip and shot him at point blank range," the Morning Call reported in 1995.
McHugh joined the Game Commission just four months before he was killed. According to the Call, a lynch mob waited for the shooter, Francis Thomas, at a train station in Luzerne County, but officers "whisked him to Carbon County's jail" instead.
Thomas told police he accidentally shot McHugh while unloading his shotgun. He was found not guilty at trial after firearms experts testified that Thomas' gun was defective and could have fired under the slightest pressure to the trigger.
1901: Adam Strunk, 36
Pennsylvania State Deputy Constable
When two men wanted for robbing and beating a family in New Jersey crossed the border into Pennsylvania, state constable Adam Strunk helped lead the search. He found them near Marshall's Creek, a few miles below Bushkill.
One of the men shot and killed Strunk, who stood about 100 yards in front of the other officers. He died shortly after.
"The excitement in Monroe and Pike counties over the shooting of Adam Strunk is intense," the Milford Dispatch published in 1901. "Mr. Strunk was a poor man and leaves a wife and five children. He was a most exemplary citizen and was a deputized police officer."
The suspects fled but were eventually captured. Charles Grether, the man convicted of murdering Strunk, escaped jail twice — once after he "put soap all over his body and slipped through the bars," a source told the Pocono Record in 1968. He was executed by hanging in 1903.
Hannah Phillips is a reporter at the Pocono Record covering public safety in Monroe and Pike counties. Reach her at email@example.com.
This article originally appeared on Pocono Record: These fallen officers from the Poconos gave all