Military tactics, arms, helped rescue Ala. hostage

Published on NewsOK Modified: February 6, 2013 at 10:28 pm •  Published: February 6, 2013
Advertisement
;

Within hours after an armed, angry man shot a school bus driver and kidnapped a 5-year-old boy, workers feverishly unloaded boxes packed with percussive grenades, military C-4 explosives and an array of guns from a windowless DC-9 that had landed just miles from the suspect's isolated compound.

Helmeted officers decked out in tan fatigues, camouflage and body armor, many carrying long guns, rumbled in rented cargo trucks to and from the property in southeastern Alabama where 65-year-old Jim Lee Dykes and his young captive were hunkered down in a roughly 6-by-8-foot hand-dug bunker with only one small hatch for an entryway.

Two Humvees belonging to the Dale County Sheriff's Department and a tan, military-style personnel carrier were parked in a field beside the bunker throughout much of the ordeal, along with sport-utility vehicles. Officers dressed in combat-style gear could be seen watching the bunker from an opening in the roof of the tan personnel vehicle.

And as the standoff stretched into days, drones flew large, lazy circles high above the scene at night.

In many ways, the scene resembled more of a war-time situation than a domestic crime scene as civilian law enforcement relied heavily on military tactics and equipment to end the six-day ordeal.

No military combat personnel were at the scene, according to a law-enforcement official who spoke on condition of anonymity because he was not authorized to release the information.

But authorities' decision to rely on every tool at their disposal paid off: Dykes had planted an explosive device in a ventilation pipe he'd told negotiators to use to communicate with him on his property in the rural Alabama community of Midland City, and also placed another explosive device inside the bunker, the FBI said in a statement late Tuesday.

Dykes appears to have "reinforced the bunker against any attempted entry by law enforcement," FBI agent Jason Pack said in the statement.

The FBI said in an email late Wednesday that bomb technicians had "completed their work today and cleared the crime scene. No additional devices were found." Dykes' body was removed, and an autopsy is scheduled for Thursday. The news release said the crime scene will be processed over the next few days and that a shooting review team dispatched from Washington was continuing its investigation.

The raid on the bunker was carried out by the FBI's hostage response team, which serves as the agency's full-time counterterrorism unit, Pack said Wednesday. Trained in military tactics and outfitted with combat-style gear and weapons, the group was formed 30 years ago in preparation for the 1984 Olympics in Los Angeles.

Composed of FBI agents, some of whom have prior military experience, the team is deployed quickly to trouble spots and provides assistance to local FBI offices during hostage situations. It has participated in hostage situations more than 800 times in the U.S. and elsewhere since 1983, the FBI said.

"As an elite counterterrorism tactical team for law enforcement, the HRT is one of the best, if not the best, in the United States," Sean Joyce, deputy FBI director, said in a statement released during the Alabama standoff.

In addition to employing its counterterrorism unit, the FBI brought out a full array of military-style equipment, including armored personnel carriers and combat rifles. Many were visible at the scene during the standoff.