Authorities storm Alabama bunker, rescue boy

Published on NewsOK Modified: February 5, 2013 at 12:37 am •  Published: February 5, 2013
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MIDLAND CITY, Ala. (AP) — Law enforcement officers stormed an underground bunker Monday in southeastern Alabama, freeing a 5-year-old boy and shooting his captor to death after they became convinced the child was in imminent danger, officials said.

Jimmy Lee Dykes, 65, of Midland City had taken the child off a school bus after fatally shooting the driver on Jan 29. He had remained holed up in the bunker with the child ever since, communicating with authorities through a ventilation pipe into the shelter.

Dykes had been seen with a gun, and officers concluded the boy was in imminent danger after nearly a week of negotiations, said Steve Richardson of the FBI's office in Mobile.

Dale County Sheriff Wally Olson said late Monday that Dykes was armed when officers entered the bunker to rescue the child. He said the boy was threatened but declined to elaborate.

"That's why we went inside — to save the child," he said.

Olson and others declined to say how Dykes died. But an official in Midland City, citing information from law enforcement, said police had shot Dykes.

The official requested anonymity because the official wasn't authorized to speak publicly about the investigation.

Dykes was known by neighbors for his anti-government rants and for patrolling his property with a gun, ready to shoot trespassers. He had stayed for several days in the tiny bunker on his property before.

"He always said he'd never be taken alive. I knew he'd never come out of there," said an acquaintance, Roger Arnold.

Monday evening, officers were sweeping the property to make sure Dykes had not set up any bombs that could detonate. Full details of the bunker raid had not yet emerged. However, neighbors described hearing what sounded like gunshots around the time officials said they entered the shelter.

At a late Monday news conference, authorities declined to comment on how they had observed Dykes or on how he died, citing the pending investigation.

Asked about the official's statement that Dykes had been killed by law enforcement officers, FBI spokesman Jason Pack said in an email early Tuesday: "The facts surrounding the incident will be established by a shooting review team from Washington, DC in the coming days."

The boy has been reunited with his mother and appears to be OK, authorities said.

Richardson said he had been to the hospital to see the boy and he was laughing, joking, eating and "doing the things you'd expect a normal 5- or 6-year-old to do."

Michael Senn, pastor of a church near where reporters had been camped out since the standoff began, said he was relieved the child had been taken to safety. However, he also recalled the bus driver, Charles Albert Poland Jr., who has been hailed as a hero for protecting nearly two dozen other children on the bus before being shot by Dykes.

"As we rejoice tonight for (the boy) and his family, we still have a great emptiness in our community because a great man was lost in this whole ordeal," Senn said.

The rescue capped a long drama that drew national attention to this town of 2,400 people nestled amid peanut farms and cotton fields that has long relied on a strong Christian faith, a policy of "love thy neighbor" and the power of group prayer. The child's plight prompted nightly candlelight vigils. Midland City is located about 100 miles southeast of the state capital, Montgomery.