A tense hostage situation continued on Wednesday in rural Alabama, where a man was holding a 6-year-old boy in an underground bunker hours after the gunman grabbed the child off a school bus and killed the driver, officials said.
State police, local sheriff’s deputies, FBI agents and SWAT teams kept vigil outside the property in Dale County, where the boy was being held, according to televised images from the scene. Neither the suspect nor the child has been identified and their relationship, if any, was unknown.
Officials were in communication with the bunker through a PVC pipe, according to WSFA-TV. The child was described as in good condition.
The incident began around 3:40 p.m. Tuesday near the Destiny Church at U.S. Highway 231 and Private Road 1539 in the small town of Midland City in south Alabama.
Dale County Sheriff Wally Olsen told WBMA-TV that the man boarded the stopped school bus in Midland City and shot the driver when he refused to let the child off the bus. The driver died of his wounds.
On Wednesday morning, the Dale County Sheriff's Office identified the driver as Charles Albert Poland Jr., 66. It said he had been a driver for the Dale County Board of Education since 2009.
Michael Senn, a local minister, told WSFA that his church owns the building occupied by Destiny Church, though it's currently being rented by another congregation. He said while he was not on the scene when the incident happened, he spoke with several of the children a short time later.
Senn said one girl told him that the man who got on the bus told most of the children to get off the bus. He then grabbed a young boy and shot the bus driver four times.
Senn said the children who got off the bus ran for safety and hid behind Destiny Church.
“All the kids are at a safe place,” he said, though he added all of them appeared to be in shock.
“I spoke to a young guy, 13 years old, that was really traumatized,” Senn said. The boy, who is “really good friends” with the hostage, witnessed the entire incident.
“I talked with him and ministered with him and prayed with him before he left,” Senn said.
The hostage has a medical condition, and authorities overnight were able to send the child's medication down the pipe into the bunker and also determined that the boy had not been physically harmed, WDHN-TV reported.
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