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Ala. Bunker Standoff Ends With Gunman Dead, Boy Alive


It's ALL THINGS CONSIDERED from NPR News. I'm Audie Cornish.


And I'm Robert Seigel.

A week-long hostage standoff in Alabama is over. Last week in the southeastern part of the state, a man kidnapped a boy from a school bus and took him into an underground bunker. Authorities had been trying to negotiate his release ever since. Late today, it was announced that the kidnapper is dead and the five-year-old hostage is OK.

Here's the FBI's Steve Richardson giving a statement in Midland City.

STEVE RICHARDSON: FBI agents, fearing the child was in imminent danger, entered the bunker and rescued the child. The child appears physically unharmed and is being treated at a local hospital. The subject is deceased.

SIEGEL: We turn now to reporter Dan Carsen of member station WBHM. He's following the situation from Birmingham. And, Dan, remind us how this standoff got started.

DAN CARSEN, BYLINE: Well, last Tuesday, according to witnesses, according to students who were on the bus, Jimmy Lee Dykes, a retired truck driver who'd served in the Navy, boarded the bus. He demanded two children between the ages of six and eight. I think he specifically asked for boys. The driver, Charles Albert Poland, Jr., apparently tried to stop Jimmy Lee Dykes from taking children off the bus.

Mr. Dykes, police are saying, shot the man three or four times. After that, Dykes grabbed a five-year-old and sort of ran off to his land nearby where he had a homemade underground bunker and he had been hiding there with the boy ever since.

SIEGEL: You said Mr. Dykes had served in the Navy. What else, if anything, do we know about this man?

CARSEN: Well, when I was down there I spoke with lots of neighbors and some of them were actually frightened to speak on the record. Not so much because of their own safety, but because they were worried that Dykes was monitoring any media accounts from his bunker and they didn't want to antagonize this man who they saw as very erratic and unpredictable and dangerous.

I spoke with one man who told me Dykes had beaten his dog to death, 120-pound arthritic, slow and basically harmless dog, for coming near the man's property. And I heard lots of accounts like that. Apparently, he was given to patrolling his land at night with a shotgun and a flashlight. And he was actually due in court on Wednesday, the day after this all went down. He was due to appear in court on charges that he took a few shots at a different set of neighbors.

SIEGEL: Now, from the beginning, the police were very tight-lipped about this, keeping news conferences short and answering almost no questions. What was the reason for that?

CARSEN: Well, we knew that Dykes at least had a TV in the bunker and it's possible he had other kinds of communications equipment, too. So police were very worried - they were worried Dykes could monitor the situation from his bunker and they didn't want to give him a tactical advantage. They didn't want to tip their hand and let the guy know what they were doing as far as setting up perimeters or whatever else they ended up doing. And they also just really were very, very scared about antagonizing a man who is clearly armed and unstable and holding a little boy.

SIEGEL: This idea that he had a bunker in his home, did neighbors know about that as well or was that a surprise to them that had come out during the story?

CARSEN: They did know about that. And bunkers in this part of the world are not that unusual. It's kind of a tornado shelter thing, severe weather. Some of the neighbors took him at his word. He apparently would be out at all hours in the middle of the night digging this bunker over, from what I gather, over the last year, a year and a half or so. He told people that it was a storm shelter. But even when he was building it, I got the sense that some of the neighbors weren't so sure that was the only reason for it. Some described him as a survivalist.

SIEGEL: Thank you, Dan.

CARSEN: Thank you.

SIEGEL: That's reporter Dan Carsen of member station WBHM in Birmingham, Alabama. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.