US gunman's bunker standoff with child continues
APMIDLAND CITY, Alabama -- A tense standoff moved into its second day Thursday as police negotiated with a U.S. man suspected of boarding a crowded school bus, shooting the driver dead and taking a 5-year-old boy at random with him into a rural bunker.
February 1, 2013, 1:01 am TWN
Multiple neighbors identified the suspect as Jimmy Lee Dykes, a 65-year-old retired truck driver who had moved to the Alabama neighborhood on a rutted red clay road more than a year ago. It didn't take long before he developed a frightening reputation as a volatile man with anti-government views who threatened his neighbors at gunpoint and was vicious to wandering pets.
Dykes and the boy were said to be holed up in the bunker-type shelter on the man's property that was equipped with electricity, food and TV.
On Thursday, dozens of cars for police and FBI agents blocked the road's entrance. At least one ambulance was parked nearby. Homes on the road had been evacuated after authorities found what they believed to be a bomb on the property.
Police negotiators tried to win the boy's safe release.
“As far as we know there is no relation at all. He just wanted a child for a hostage situation,” said Michael Senn, a pastor who helped comfort traumatized children after the attack.
It was unclear if Dykes made any demands.
State Rep. Steve Clouse, who met with authorities and visited the boy's family, said the bunker had food and electricity, and the youngster was watching TV. At one point, authorities lowered medicine into the bunker for the boy after his captor agreed to it, Clouse said.
The standoff began after school Tuesday afternoon.
The bus driver, Charles Albert Poland Jr., 66, was hailed by locals as a hero who gave his life to protect the 21 students aboard the bus. Authorities say most of the students scrambled to the back of the bus when the gunman boarded and said he wanted two boys 6 to 8 years old.
When the gunman went down the aisle, authorities said, Poland tried to block him. That's when authorities say the driver was shot four times before the gunman grabbed the child at random and fled.