Alabama hostage standoff ends with child safe, gunman dead

MIDLAND CITY, Alabama Mon Feb 4, 2013 10:58pm EST

1 of 23. FBI Special Agent in Charge Steve Richardson addresses the media near Midland City, Alabama, February 4, 2013 in this image courtesy of NBC. Authorities killed a gunman holding a 5-year-old boy hostage in an underground bunker in rural Alabama on Monday and plucked the child to safety without injury, a local law enforcement official said.

Credit: Reuters/NBC/Handout

Related Topics

MIDLAND CITY, Alabama (Reuters) - U.S. authorities stormed an underground bunker in rural Alabama on Monday, rescuing a 5-year-old boy held hostage for nearly a week and leaving his kidnapper dead.

After a standoff of more than six days, FBI agents entered the bunker when they feared the child was in "imminent danger" at the hands of his abductor, who had killed a school bus driver, said Steve Richardson, special agent in charge in Mobile, Alabama.

The kidnapper, identified as 65-year-old Jimmy Lee Dykes, had previously allowed authorities to deliver medication, coloring books and toys to the kindergarten student, who is due to celebrate his birthday on Wednesday.

But negotiations deteriorated in the 24 hours before agents entered the bunker, Richardson told a news conference.

"Mr. Dykes was observed holding a gun," the FBI agent said.

Law enforcement officials would not confirm on Monday how Dykes died.

The standoff gripped a rural corner of southeast Alabama with dread, shuttering local schools and prompting prayers and vigils for the boy identified only as Ethan.

By all accounts, Dykes had taken him from the bus at random, reinforcing concerns that have been raised about U.S. school safety and gun violence since the December shooting deaths of 20 children and six adults at a Connecticut elementary school.

"It just shows you how close it can come," one of Dykes' neighbors, 42-year-old Angie Adams, said of the violence, adding she now plans one day to home school her 2-year-old daughter.

"We waited 10 years to have her and we would be devastated" if something happened, Adams said.

The drama near Midland City began when Dykes, a retired trucker who served in the Navy during the Vietnam War era, boarded a school bus ferrying more than 20 children home last Tuesday and demanded that the driver let a student off the bus, according to authorities.


When driver Charles Albert Poland, 66, refused, Dykes shot him four times with a 9 mm handgun, local sheriff's department officials said.

"To Mr. Poland's family, we would like to express our condolences," Dale County Sheriff Wally Olson said. "Also our appreciation to a hero who through his brave actions saved many lives."

Dykes fled with the child to a homemade bunker equipped with a television and electric heaters on the man's property off a dirt road. Authorities would not confirm news reports that said negotiators had remained in contact with Dykes by talking through a PVC pipe connected to the underground shelter.

The child was being treated at a local hospital but appeared physically unharmed, Richardson said. He is said to suffer from Asperger's Syndrome and attention deficit-hyperactivity disorder.

"He's laughing, joking, playing, eating," Richardson said. "He's very brave. He's very lucky."

A local law enforcement source said a stun or flash grenade was detonated as part of the operation to free the boy, but further details were not immediately released.

Late on Monday, bomb technicians were clearing the crime scene and looking for explosives, said FBI Special Agent Jason Pack. Authorities said the investigation could take days to complete.

Law enforcement officials offered few insights about Dykes and their negotiations with him before the rescue.

Dale County Sheriff Wally Olson said the gunman had a "very complex" story to tell.

"Based on our discussion with Mr. Dykes, he feels like he has a story that's important to him, although it's very complex," Olson said, without elaborating.

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

He had been due to appear for a trial before a judge last Wednesday after his recent arrest on a menacing charge involving one of his neighbors.

Another neighbor, who said he grew up with Dykes and also served in the Navy around the same time, suspected the court case might have sparked his unraveling.

"When he kidnapped those kids, he was afraid of losing his property, his rights, his freedom and going to jail," said Mel Adams, who owns a used car lot.

But, Adams added, "We had no idea on Earth he would turn into a monster like this."

(Additional reporting by Tom Brown; Writing by Colleen Jenkins; Editing by Cynthia Johnston, Cynthia Osterman and Xavier Briand)

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
Comments (16)
McBob08 wrote:
You Gun Bunnies still think that America doesn’t need better Gun Control Laws? That boy could have just as easily ended up dead, all because no one took the guns away from a crazy man. Some people simply should not have guns, and it’s up to the government to ensure that they don’t; despite all the irrational resistance by the NRA.

Every time a person is killed by a gun in America, it’s really the NRA’s fault for preventing common sense gun laws from being enacted. Put the blame squarely on them.

Feb 04, 2013 9:32pm EST  --  Report as abuse
GradyPhilpott wrote:

I’m a member of the NRA.

Instead of making ad hominem attacks against the law-abiding in this country, why don’t you make a cogent argument for gun-control.

The academic literature is replete with valid and reliable, substantive, quantitative data that show that when there are more guns in the hands of the law-abiding, there is less crime.

Coward want to throw up their hands in the face of danger, but those who have true courage take the responsibility to look after their own safety and the safety of their loved ones and community.

There are enough gun-laws on the books now, but they have proven completely ineffective against crime.

Just look at the cities and communities who have the highest crime rates in the country and you will see that they are also the same cities and communities with the strictest gun laws.

We live in a society and indeed a world in which there is a meltdown of norms, roles, and institutions and the effects we see in our communities are the violent acts.

These acts are the result of people who are hell-bent on committing violence and they will do so, regardless of the means they choose, because guns are not the only means to commit mass mayhem.

We make it easy for the criminals and the mentally deranged in this country to mow us down, because we are afraid to confront the problem directly and rather choose to reify the problem by blaming inanimate objects for our problems.

This is a fundamental logical error that really can only be made by an ignorant, or uneducated or a brainwashed populace.

Start thinking for yourself and take a look at the Constitution and consider what it means to you in your daily life and just how you would get along if every element of the Bill of Rights that was used by the criminal and the irresponsible and the incompetent to create social problems were to be eliminated.

Do you suppose that government will be satisfied to take away our ugly guns?

Do you know why such meaningless terms such as “assault weapons, Saturday-night-specials and sniper rifles are bandied about by the Left in this country?

Well, it’s mainly because those three terms cover just about every firearm in existence, whether they are semi-automatic, or if they are revolvers, or if they are bolt-action rifles or even single shot rifles and shotguns.

Well, I could go on, but when you don’t know your butt-plate from your stacking swivel, it’s easy for a disingenuous element of society to confuse you about the actions of firearms.

Like the Democrat Congress in Clinton’s term who defined “assault weapons,” not by the actions of the weapons, but by the cosmetic and other irrelevant minutia such as pistol grips, flash suppressors, and bayonet lugs.

Well, that’s just a taste of the idiocy to come. Why not take a little time to learn something about an issue, instead of being blindly led down the primrose path by a bunch of liars and thugs.

Feb 04, 2013 10:07pm EST  --  Report as abuse
bamagrown wrote:
That’s a laugh, common sense and government in the same sentence. McBob get in the real world and out of what ever McWorld you live in. Blame, blame, blame. The one to blame here is the shooter here that killed the bus driver and took the boy, not the gun. I will not be giving my weapons up because loons like you think this government will protect them. I’ll take care of myself. The NRA protects our constitutional rights to bear arms, but of course that little document means nothing to nut jobs like you. Live on your knees instead of die standing, right McBob?? Do you have an issue with all these public servants having all these “GUNS” protecting them and their families? I don’t, but they and theirs are no more important than me and mine. And by the way, I’m female.

Feb 04, 2013 10:20pm EST  --  Report as abuse
This discussion is now closed. We welcome comments on our articles for a limited period after their publication.