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Hostage drama in Alabama: Suspect was due in court, neighbors say

January 30, 2013|By Michael Muskal

A standoff with a gunman who killed a school bus driver and then took a 6-year-old boy hostage entered its second day Wednesday afternoon as authorities continued their efforts to communicate with the man, holed up in an underground shelter with his hostage in rural Alabama.

As dozens of state, local and federal officers tried to out-wait the gunman, state Rep. Steve Clouse told reporters that he had met with police and the boy’s family and said the confrontation remains a “static situation.” The child has received medicine he needs and he is able to watch television while being held prisoner. The bunker being used is apparently designed to protect people from a tornado.

Officials have yet to explain the motive for the attack on the school bus and the kidnapping of the child. Nor was it clear what it would take to end the standoff that began Tuesday afternoon.

The suspect hasn’t been named, but neighbors interviewed by local television stations said he was a retired truck driver named Jimmy Lee Dykes, 65. He was described as a threatening figure who had killed a dog and used a gun to frighten off residents who came near his property. Dykes had been scheduled to appear in court on charges stemming from a dispute with neighbors last month, they said.

The incident began when the gunman stopped a school bus filled with children in the town of Midland City in rural Dale County in southern Alabama, about 90 miles from Montgomery.

Dale County Sheriff Wally Olsen told reporters that the man shot the bus driver when he refused to hand over one of the 21 pupils on the vehicle. The driver was identified as Charles Albert Poland Jr., 66. Donny Bynum, the superintendent of Dale County schools, said Poland had been a full-time bus driver for four years.

“Emotions are high, and it's a struggle for us all to make sense of something so senseless, but let us keep this young student, his family, and Mr. Poland's family in our thoughts and prayers,” Bynum said in a prepared statement.

After shooting the driver, who was being hailed as a hero for protecting his charges, the gunman snatched the boy and fled, eventually to the bunker on his property.

“As far as we know there is no relation at all. He just wanted a child for a hostage situation,” Michael Senn, a church pastor who has been involved in counseling children, told reporters.

Authorities were communicating with the suspect through a PVC pipe, WSFA-TV reported. Medication had been sent into the shelter through the pipe, according to WDHN-TV.

One neighbor, Jimmy Davis, told CNN he had had a dispute with Dykes involving an incident during which Dykes shot twice at the family truck. Davis said he filed a complaint against Dykes over the December confrontation. Dykes was supposed to appear in court Wednesday in nearby Ozark to face a charge of menacing, a misdemeanor, Davis told reporters.

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