Story Summary

Alabama hostage situation

A six-day hostage standoff came to an end when a man holed up a bunker was found dead and police recovered the 5-year-old he abducted, according to a law enforcement official.

The FBI continues to investigate the bunker where the 5-year-old was apparently held by Jimmy Lee Dykes.

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The FBI will search for more bombs today in the bunker where a five-year-old boy from Alabama was held hostage.

Authorities found two homemade bombs yesterday.

One was in the underground bunker, the other was in a pipe that the hostage taker used to communicate with police.

Jimmy Lee Dykes was killed in a raid on the bunker Monday.

The boy, named Ethan, was rescued and today is his sixth birthday.

He was taken hostage last week when Dykes attacked a school bus and killed the driver.

Midland City, Alabama (CNN) — The rescue of a kindergartner from the underground bunker where he had been held for almost a week was precipitated by concerns the kidnapper’s mental state was in sudden decline, a law enforcement source close to the investigation said Tuesday.

Authorities have said little publicly about the Monday rescue that killed 65-year-old Jimmy Lee Dykes and freed his 5-year-old captive just two days before the boy’s birthday.

But the law enforcement source said Dykes’ mental state deteriorated in the 24 hours before the Monday afternoon rescue, and experts from FBI units, including a crisis negotiation team, tactical intelligence officers and a behavioral sciences unit, determined he was in a downward psychological spiral.

The FBI’s hostage rescue team forced its way into the bunker and rescued the boy, the source said.

While authorities have not said whether Dykes killed himself or if the team that stormed the bunker shot him, the FBI is sending a “shooting review board” from Washington to look into the incident, FBI spokesman Jason Pack said Tuesday from Alabama.

Evidence teams are also at the site, waiting for bomb technicians to finish their work, which was set to resume Tuesday morning, Pack said.

Dale County Sheriff Wally Olson said Tuesday he could not release much information about the case.

“It’s still actually an ongoing investigation, and we still have a lot of work to do here,” he said.

The boy, identified by authorities only as Ethan, remained hospitalized Tuesday, according to Midland City Elementary School Principal Phillip Parker. There is no time frame for his release, Parker said.

Monday night, the boy’s uncle said he expected Ethan to remain in the hospital at least overnight.

FBI Special Agent in Charge Steve Richardson said Monday that Ethan was in a private area with heavy security.

“He is doing fine,” said Richardson, who had visited the boy. “He’s laughing, joking, playing, eating.”

What’s next for Ethan?

Relief that Ethan was safe was palpable, but many questions remain about what comes next for him.

How does a 5-year-old heal from this ordeal? How does a youngster go on after witnessing his bus driver shot to death, then being dragged to an underground bunker by a gun-toting stranger? How will he deal with what he experienced the six days he languished in that hole and what he saw during the explosive rescue Monday that killed his captor?

“It’s very hard to tell how he’s going to do,” said Louis Krouse, a psychiatrist at Chicago’s Rush Medical Center. “On the one hand, he might get right back to his routine and do absolutely fine. But on the other hand, the anxieties, the trauma, what we call an acute stress disorder, even post-traumatic stress symptoms, can occur.”

Support crucial for kids after trauma

The ordeal

Dykes boarded a Dale County school bus a week ago, demanding that the driver hand over two children, police said.

The driver, Charles Albert Poland Jr., refused, blocking access to the bus’s narrow aisle as at least 21 children escaped out of the back emergency door, authorities said.

The gunman killed Poland, then grabbed Ethan before barricading himself and the boy inside a nearby bunker he had built on his southeast Alabama land. In the ensuing days, officials said little about what was going on in the bunker or in their strategy, or what — if anything — Dykes wanted.

While authorities have not said how they communicated with Dykes, they have said they were frequently in touch with him.

At one point Monday, Olson told reporters that Dykes had “a story that’s important to him, although it’s very complex.”

Negotiations rapidly deteriorated, Olson said later. Dykes had also been observed holding a gun, according to authorities.

At 3:12 p.m. (4:12 ET), the FBI team went in.

One neighbor said he was outside when he was startled by the sound of an explosion.

“I heard a big boom and then … I believe I heard rifle shots,” said Bryon Martin, who owns a home near the bunker where Ethan had been held since last Tuesday.

It was a loud noise that “made me jump off the ground,” he said.

Authorities wouldn’t say whether the blast was set off as a diversionary tactic or whether Dykes had planted explosives around the bunker.

When the rescue was over, Dykes was dead and Ethan was unharmed.

Olson declined to say whether the boy saw his abductor die.

“He’s a very special child. He’s been through a lot, he’s endured a lot,” he said.

When terrible things happen: Helping children heal

The recovery

Someone who knows all too well what Ethan may go through is Katie Beers, who as a 10-year-old was held underground in a concrete bunker for two weeks by a New York man.

“I am ecstatic that Ethan has been retrieved safe and sound,” said Beers, who recently released a book about her abduction. “As for my ordeal, I just keep thinking about the effects of it: being deprived sunlight, nutritious food and human contact. And how much I wanted to have a nutritious meal, see my family.”

Beers says she still feels the effects of her kidnapping.

“The major issue that I have is control issues with my kids and finances,” she said. “I don’t like my kids being out of my sight for more than two seconds. And I think that that might get worse as they get older.”

Guiding children through grief and loss

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A six-day hostage standoff came to an end Monday when a man holed up a bunker was found dead and police recovered the 5-year-old he abducted, according to a law enforcement official.

The child appeared to be OK emerging from the ordeal, the official said.

Two ambulances left the scene shortly before 4 p.m. (5 p.m. ET).

Last Tuesday, police say, Jimmy Lee Dykes boarded a Dale County school bus and demanded the driver hand over two children.

The driver, Charles Albert Poland Jr., refused, blocking access to the bus’s narrow aisle as at least 21 children escaped out of the back emergency door, authorities said.

Police say the gunman killed Poland, then grabbed a kindergartner before barricading himself and the boy inside a nearby bunker he had built.

In the ensuing days, officials said little about what was going on in the bunker or in their strategy, or what — if anything — Dykes wanted.

“Based on our discussions with Mr. Dykes, he feels like he has a story that’s important to him, although it’s very complex,” Dale County Sherriff Wally Olson said Monday before the hostage situation ended. He didn’t elaborate.

An FBI spokesman said Sunday that authorities continue “to maintain an open line of communication with Mr. Dykes.”

The boy suffers from Asperger’s syndrome and attention deficit disorder, State. Rep. Steve Clouse said.

Dykes told authorities that he had blankets and a heater in the bunker, and authorities have previously said the bunker — built 4 feet underground — has electricity.

Authorities hadn’t said how they were communicating with Dykes.

Meanwhile, residents and business owners in Midland City put up blue, red and black ribbons in support of the boy and Poland. Blue and red are the local school colors, and black is in honor of the slain bus driver.

The U.S. Navy confirmed Monday that Dykes served in the military from 1964 to 1969.

Naval records list him as an aviation maintenance administrationman third-class who served with units based in California and Atsugi, Japan. The job entails clerical work related to aircraft and aircraft maintenance, according to the Navy’s job description.

Neighbors and officials had described Dykes as a survivalist with “anti-government” views.

Even as the hostage situation continued Monday morning, plenty of police were on hand as schools in neighboring Ozark, Alabama, reopened for the first time since the incident began.

Dale County schools remained closed but were to reopen on Tuesday, the district said.

In Ozark, school officials decided to begin strictly enforcing a 15-foot safety zone around school buses required by state law. The law prohibits any unauthorized adults, including parents, from approaching within 15 feet of a school bus stop. If an unauthorized adult gets too close, bus drivers are supposed to close bus doors or drive away, if necessary, school officials said.

The abduction had rattled the nerves of many parents, said Rebecca Jules-McQuet, whose 5-year-old daughter returned to school Monday.

“You think about it every night when you go to bed that that little boy is not in his bed, with his mom and dad,” she said. “It’s heart-wrenching.
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Midland City, Alabama — Somewhere underneath this red Alabama dirt is a 6-year-old boy.

A kindergartener, snatched from the safety of his school bus by a gunman and stashed in an underground bunker;

A 6-year-old who needs daily medication;

A child that this Bible Belt community of 2,300 is praying for.

Many details have been released about the boy’s abductor:

How he was supposed to have been in court to face charges that he’d shot at his neighbors over a minor property dispute;

How he boarded a stopped school bus Tuesday and shot dead the bus driver;

How he worked on the bunker in the middle of the night for more than a year.

But as the sun rose again on Midland City on Thursday, many more questions remain:

How deep is the bunker?

What’s in it beside the man and the boy?

How are they keeping warm when temperatures have dipped into the 30s in the area?

Is the boy safe?

And most importantly, why him?

The driver

The gunman stormed into the school bus Tuesday afternoon and demanded that the driver hand him a child.

The driver, 66-year-old Charles Poland Jr., was a gentle Bible-reading man who could not stand to discipline the children on his bus because it hurt his heart, the Dothan Eagle newspaper reported.

When he refused the demand, police said, the gunman shot him several times as 22 horrified children scrambled for cover.

But the man was able to grab the boy and drag him to his underground bunker.

And the standoff began.

The suspect

Authorities have not released the name of the suspected gunman. But neighbors and news outlets around Midland City identified him as 65-year-old Jimmy Lee Dykes, a Vietnam veteran and a retired truck driver.

Neighbor Jimmy Davis told CNN that Dykes began digging a hole on his property soon after he moved in down the road from him.

Davis, who works a night shift, said Dykes worked on his bunker in the middle of the night — every other night, between 2 and 3 a.m., for a year and a half.

He was friendly and welcoming and told Davis the hole would be a storm shelter.

But Tim Byrd, chief investigator with the Dale County Sheriff’s Office, told the Southern Poverty Law Center’s Hatewatch that Dykes had “anti-America” views.

“His friends and his neighbors stated that he did not trust the government, that he was a Vietnam vet, and that he had PTSD,” Byrd told the civil rights group. “He was standoffish, didn’t socialize or have any contact with anybody. He was a survivalist type.”

The court date

On Wednesday, the day before the standoff began, Dykes was supposed to appear in court to answer to charges that he’d shot at Davis during a December argument over the dirt road that separated their homes.

Davis was moving out when his truck — hauling a trailer — dug ruts into the dirt speed bump that Dykes had built up across the road.

Dykes “got mad about what he saw” and stood by the side of the road, yelling and cursing, said Davis’ mother, Claudia.

He then ran to his van, got a pistol and fired two shots at the truck, the Davises said.

Fortunately, no one was hurt, including Claudia Davis’ 6-month-old daughter, who was inside.

The Wednesday court date in nearby Ozark was for menacing, a misdemeanor that carries penalties of up to six months in jail.

Another neighbor, Ronda Wilbur, said Dykes beat her dog to death with a lead pipe and then bragged to her husband about it.

“He made it very clear that any animals or people that came onto his property would be killed,” she said.

Wilbur said she complained to animal control authorities and thought that this would stop the behavior.

“He just got increasingly more bizarre,” Wilbur said.

The boy

Very little information has been released about the boy.

One thing is for certain: He didn’t know Dykes, State Rep. Steve Clouse said.

Through a PVC pipe that extends into the bunker, authorities have pleaded with the suspect to let the boy go — to no avail.

The man agreed to let police send down coloring books, crayons and the prescription medicine the little boy desperately needs for Asperger’s syndrome and attention deficit hyperactivity disorder.

But nothing else has changed.

As the standoff dragged into Thursday morning, the boy’s parents were doing their best to hold it together.

They were “holding on by a thread,” Clouse said.

The scene

Early Thursday morning, dozens of law enforcement vehicles clogged the dead-end dirt road that leads to Dykes’ house. They were from local police, the FBI, even Homeland Security.

Authorities evacuated neighbors. Officials closed schools in three nearby districts for the week.

But with little movement, police have been loath to share much with the media.

Authorities called off a planned news conference late Wednesday night, saying there was nothing new to report.

At an earlier news conference Wednesday, Dale County Sheriff Wally Olson said he had “no reason to believe that the child has been harmed.”

A reporter asked what the community could do to help.

“Pray,” the sheriff said.

“Pray.”

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A gunman boarded a school bus in Alabama, took a 6-year-old boy hostage and killed the driver who tried to save him, police said Wednesday.

The incident occurred Tuesday and continued into Wednesday morning, with authorities still desperately trying to free the young child, who was being held by the gunman in an underground bunker.

“We will continue to work diligently through the night in an effort to bring closure to this incident as quickly as possible,” the Dale County Sheriff’s Department said late Tuesday.

Authorities identified the slain bus driver as 66-year-old Charles Albert Poland Jr.

Late in the evening Tuesday, the shooter had the child in some sort of underground bunker or storm shelter, and authorities were communicating with him through a PVC pipe, CNN affiliate WSFA reported.

Adding to the tension was the fact that the child needs medication that has to be taken daily, CNN affiliate WDHN reported.

Overnight, authorities were able to send the child’s medication down the pipe into the bunker and also determine that the boy had not been physically harmed, WDHN reported.

The incident started at about 3:40 p.m. (4:40 p.m. ET) near a church in Midland City, Alabama, in the southeastern corner of the state. Authorities have since expanded an evacuation area in an effort to protect nearby residents.

Michael Senn, a local pastor, told WSFA that he spoke to several students who had been on the bus.

He said a girl described the shooter getting aboard.

“He told most of them to get off the bus,” Senn related. “And then he grabbed a little boy and shot the bus driver four times.” The driver’s body was removed from the bus early Wednesday, WDHN reported.

Mike Creel, the suspect’s neighbor, said he also talked to some of the children who escaped the bus. It was a terrifying scene, Creel told the affiliate.

The suspect initially demanded two children, Creel told WSFA.

“The one child he got ahold of actually fainted,” said Creel. “That was the reason he was able to grab him. And now he is hidden in his homemade bomb shelter.”

Creel said the suspect had been living in the area for about two years and began building the shelter right when he moved in.

Authorities have not released the name of the suspected gunman.

Early in the morning, local authorities allowed the FBI to take the lead in the hostage situation, WDHN reported.

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