Efforts to end Alabama hostage situation shrouded in secrecy

MIDLAND CITY, Alabama Sat Feb 2, 2013 1:39pm EST

1 of 14. Law enforcement officials including the FBI are driven onto the scene of a shooting and hostage taking near Midland City, Alabama February 1, 2013.

Credit: Reuters/Phil Sears (UNITED STATES - Tags: CRIME LAW)

Related Video

Related Topics

MIDLAND CITY, Alabama (Reuters) - Efforts to free a 5-year-old boy from a gunman in an underground bunker, where he fled after killing the boy's school bus driver, were shrouded in secrecy on Saturday as the standoff in rural Alabama dragged into a fifth straight day.

Police sources said the FBI's Hostage Rescue Team, often described as federal law enforcement's only full-time counterterrorism unit, was leading negotiations aimed at securing the boy's safe release.

But FBI officials have declined to comment, referring calls to local authorities who have been extremely tight-lipped, providing few official updates on the situation.

Dale County Sheriff Wally Olson, chief spokesman for local law enforcement officials in Midland City, told a brief news conference on Saturday that authorities had been "in constant communication" with the suspect, who was officially identified on Friday as 65-year-old Jimmy Lee Dykes.

A retired trucker and Vietnam veteran, Dykes is the man police believe responsible for fatally shooting bus driver Charles Albert Poland, 66, on Tuesday and then taking one of Poland's more than 20 child passengers hostage as they rode home from school.

The incident came against the backdrop of a debate about gun control that has galvanized the nation since the shooting deaths of 20 children and six adults at a Connecticut elementary school in December.

Olson declined to disclose any specific demands made by Dykes, saying only that he had allowed the authorities to provide coloring books, toys and medication for the kindergartner, who reportedly suffers from autism or Asperger's Syndrome.

Dykes also assured the authorities that he had blankets and electric heaters in the bunker to protect the boy from cold overnight temperatures, Olson said.

"I want to thank him for taking care of our child. This is very important," Olson said.

He offered no further comment but one law enforcement source, explaining perhaps why so little information is being shared with reporters, told Reuters that Dykes has access to television news inside his bunker.

According to his neighbors, Dykes moved into the Midland City area about two years ago and was often seen patrolling his property at night with a gun and a flashlight.

He kept mostly to himself and had spent a lot of time building the subterranean bunker near the trailer where he lived, several neighbors have told reporters.

Ronda Wilbur, a neighbor who has described Dykes as a "mean man" who beat one of her dogs to death with a lead pipe, said she thought he had been planning something for a long time.

"I had always figured he was more or less a wacko survivalist, but it's obvious that this had been very well thought out and arranged," Wilbur told a local ABC television news affiliate.

Dykes had been scheduled to appear for a bench trial on Wednesday after his arrest last month on a menacing charge involving one of his neighbors.

(Writing and additional reporting by Tom Brown; editing by Gunna Dickson)

We welcome comments that advance the story through relevant opinion, anecdotes, links and data. If you see a comment that you believe is irrelevant or inappropriate, you can flag it to our editors by using the report abuse links. Views expressed in the comments do not represent those of Reuters. For more information on our comment policy, see http://blogs.reuters.com/fulldisclosure/2010/09/27/toward-a-more-thoughtful-conversation-on-stories/
Comments (7)
TheTexRanger wrote:
The media has been ridiculous in handling this story. They are avoiding the fact the child has autism and not reporting on it because it counters the ridiculous notion that autism has had anything to do with recent shooting sprees which it does not whatsoever. The NRA is using special needs children as the scapegoat and diversion for gun control which is dispicable and morally wrong. Our country is in denial that these madmen with guns are everyday americans. This guy was in the navy in Viet Nam so yeah he is a vet but probably never saw combat at all. Another crazy political maniac with weapons.

Feb 02, 2013 2:17pm EST  --  Report as abuse
tjordanchat wrote:
These gun owners are a bunch of unstable, paranoid mental cases who are preparing for an apocalypse which is in their mind. The type of people who tend towards gun ownership are these psychotic types like this kidnapper. We need to have all of them evaluated before we return their guns to them. We see on a daily basis here in America just how crazy gun owners are. They are destroying our way of life. They continue to terrorize neighborhoods, innocent woman and children. We need to protect Americans liberties from these soon to be killers of our wives and children. They have ended our right to pursue happiness. These gun owners are killing our way of life, our ability to see our children grow up and killing our woman just so that they can be these paranoid, apocalyptic crazy people. We should start be removing guns from the gun owners who do not have a college degree. These are low life hicks who need to get over this fear they have of society breaking down and their every man for himself attitude. It have no place in a civilized society. It is so obvious that the very people who buy guns are the ones who are too unstable to own one. Let’s stop the gun owners before they create the very armageddon that they are so paranoid about.

Feb 02, 2013 3:00pm EST  --  Report as abuse
bobber1956 wrote:
If they do not shroud it in secrecy the media will screw it up and get EVERY one killed…except of course the reporter hiding like a coward.

Feb 02, 2013 4:55pm EST  --  Report as abuse
This discussion is now closed. We welcome comments on our articles for a limited period after their publication.