Alabama hostage standoff ends with child safe, gunman dead
By Sharon Reich and Verna Gates | ReutersMIDLAND CITY, Alabama (Reuters) - U.S. authorities stormed an underground bunker in rural Alabama on Monday, rescuing a 5-year-old boy held hostage for nearly a week and leaving his kidnapper dead.
February 5, 2013, 2:16 pm TWN
After a standoff of more than six days, FBI agents entered the bunker when they feared the child was in "imminent danger" at the hands of his abductor, who had killed a school bus driver, said Steve Richardson, special agent in charge in Mobile, Alabama.
The kidnapper, identified as 65-year-old Jimmy Lee Dykes, had previously allowed authorities to deliver medication, coloring books and toys to the kindergarten student, who is due to celebrate his birthday on Wednesday.
But negotiations deteriorated in the 24 hours before agents entered the bunker, Richardson told a news conference.
"Mr. Dykes was observed holding a gun," the FBI agent said.
Law enforcement officials would not confirm on Monday how Dykes died.
The standoff gripped a rural corner of southeast Alabama with dread, shuttering local schools and prompting prayers and vigils for the boy identified only as Ethan.
By all accounts, Dykes had taken him from the bus at random, reinforcing concerns that have been raised about U.S. school safety and gun violence since the December shooting deaths of 20 children and six adults at a Connecticut elementary school.
"It just shows you how close it can come," one of Dykes' neighbors, 42-year-old Angie Adams, said of the violence, adding she now plans one day to home school her 2-year-old daughter.
"We waited 10 years to have her and we would be devastated" if something happened, Adams said.
The drama near Midland City began when Dykes, a retired trucker who served in the Navy during the Vietnam War era, boarded a school bus ferrying more than 20 children home last Tuesday and demanded that the driver let a student off the bus, according to authorities.