A man with a history of violent behavior has been in a tense standoff with law officers as a result in kidnapping a 5-year-old boy from the school bus he was on. The suspect, 65-year-old Jimmy Lee Dykes, boarded the school bus on Tuesday where he fatally shot the bus driver and kidnapped the boy.
The two have been holed up in the man’s underground bunker and authorities have been trying to resolve the situation. Alabama State Trooper Charles Dysart said in a news conference that the situation had remained unchanged since late Wednesday and negotiations were ongoing. Law enforcement officials said Thursday that there has been no change in the situation and it doesn’t look like it will end anytime soon.
When local law enforcement officials learned of the incident on Tuesday afternoon, SWAT teams and the F.B.I. surrounded the man’s bunker in Midland City. The small town resides in southern Alabama and is located near the Florida and Georgia boarders, which is a region that has been associated with peanut farming. The negotiations have been described as being delicate and tense.
The bunker has been described as being down a red dirt road and located on a hill that is covered with pine trees and police have taken a church next door in order to turn it into a command center. Television news crews have decided to set up across a nearby highway as well as many residents in order for them to hold prayer vigils and to take pictures.
A painter from a nearby town, James McNealy, made the drive to the area in order to pray for the boy. He said, “I have four children. My heart goes out to that boy. I can’t imagine what he and his parents are going through.”
Alabama state senator Harri Anne Smith said in an early television interview on Thursday that the child is reportedly doing well. Smith and Steve Clouse, a state representative, have said that they met with the boy’s mother and she wanted to make sure the boy’s medication, coloring books and food were delivered to the bunker.
Local television stations had interviews with neighbors who said that they had altercations with the suspect in regards to dogs and people trespassing on his property. They also said that Dykes had spent several years digging and moving cinder blocks in order to build his bunker and that it was roughly 4 feet wide, 6 feet long and possibly 8 feet high. Law officials have commented that the bunker does have power, appears to be well stocked as well as having a television.
Despite that it appears the boy is doing well; Mr. Clouse said that the family is “just holding on by a thread.” Also, Clouse and law officials feel that there doesn’t appear to be any connection between the suspect and the boy. Clouse said that “I think it’s just a random kidnapping here.” In talking with Mr. Dykes, the authorities have been able to achieve this through a PVC pipe which extends from the bunker.
The Southern Poverty Law Center’s Hatewatch blog was told by Tim Byrd, chief investigator with the Dale County Sheriff’s Office, that Dykes is a Vietnam veteran who is suffering from post-traumatic stress as well as that he “did not trust the government.”
As far as legal matters, court records indicate that Dykes had an appointment to appear in court on Wednesday in order to face charges dealing with menacing. The charges stem from being accused of shooting at neighbors while involved in an altercation in which a neighbor had driven on his property. Rhonda Wilber, a neighbor that talked with local television reporters, said, “He has been for a long time a source of concern. He has been like a time bomb waiting to go off.”
Alabama Hostage Standoff Day 3 Negotiating, Boy OK
New details in the southern Alabama hostage situation where a man is believed to be holed up with a child he kidnapped Tuesday.
Alabama Hostage Standoff: Jimmy Lee Dykes
The retired Alabama trucker who shot a school bus driver and is now holding a kindergarten student in an underground bunker was scheduled to be in court Wednesday to answer for allegedly shooting at his neighbors in a dispute over a damaged speed bump.
Jimmy Lee Dykes, 65, has been holed up in a 6 by 8 foot bunker 4 feet underground with a 5-year-old autistic boy named Ethan since Tuesday, when he boarded a school bus and asked for two 6 to 8 year old boys. School bus driver Charles Albert Poland Jr., 66, was shot several times by Dykes, and died trying to protect the children.
Police said that they do not think that Dykes had any connection to Ethan, and that SWAT teams and police are negotiating with Dykes.