Alabama hostage crisis enters second week of standstill
Jimmy Lee Dykes, a 65-year-old Vietnam veteran, fatally shot an Alabama school bus driver and took the 5-year-old boy from the bus, taking him to the bunker underneath his home. Holding the boy hostage, Dykes promised not to hurt him and kept an open line of communication with authorities.
Authorities delivered items including medicine, a Hot Wheels toy car, and food, including Cheez-Its, to the 5-year-old using a ventilation pipe. The boy suffers from a mild form of autism, but the captor has done his best “to make the environment as comfortable as possible for the child,” the FBI said.
The FBI has not discussed a motive for the kidnapping, but neighbors described the assailant as a loner with no children of his own. Dykes lives along a dirt road outside of Dothan, a small town in southeast Alabama. The 65-year-old is estranged from his family and told some of his family member “to go to hell”, said Mel Adams, a Midland City Council member who has known Dykes since they were ages 3 and 4, in an AP interview. The man has an adult daughter, but lost touch with her two years ago. He also has a brother and a sister that he has lost contact with.
The kidnapper’s neighbors told AP that Dykes once beat a dog to death with a lead pipe, threatened to shoot children for stepping onto his property, and guarded his property at night with a gun and a flashlight.
Jimmy Lee Dykes is shown in this undated handout photo. The man is suspected of shooting a school bus driver to death and taking a five-year-old boy hostage in an underground bunker as the standoff with police continues in Midland City, Alabama. (Reuters)
The descriptions of the violent loner are contradicted by his leadership and success while in the Navy, for which he served from 1964 to 1969. While serving, Dykes won several awards, including the Vietnam Service Medal and the Good Conduct Medal.
But his conduct deteriorated thereafter. Dykes was arrested in 1995 for improper exhibition of a weapon and in 2000 for marijuana possession. Last week he killed 66-year-old Charles Albert Poland Jr., a bus driver who was buried Sunday, and is still keeping the 5-year-old boy in the 8 by 6 ft. bunker.
Neighbor Michael Creel said that Dykes originally built the underground bunker in his yard to provide protection from hurricanes. It contains a steel shipping container that stores tools and supplies.
“He said he lived in Florida and had hurricanes hit. He wanted someplace he could go down in and be safe,” the younger Creel said. Dykes’ neighbor also described the captor as a man who was very interested in politics and was an avid critic of the Obama administration.
“He was very into what’s going on with the nation and the politics and all the laws being made. The things he didn’t agree with, he would ventilate,” he said. “He’s against the government, starting with Obama on down."
Asked whether Dykes was trying to copy 20-year-old Adam Lanza, who shot 26 people at an Elementary School in Newtown, Conn., Creel said he doubts that and that his neighbor most likely is just letting out his anger against the government and his neighbors by shooting the bus driver and kidnapping the boy.
“He had a whole bus load full of kids, and he could have walked up there and shot the whole crowd of them,” Creel said. “I think he’s just a really angry and bitter guy with some anger management issues. He is just against everything – the government and his neighbors.”
Dale County Sheriff Wally Olson thanked the captor for taking care of the child, but neighbors and psychologists continue to worry about the boy's mental well-being.
Jeffrey Gardere, a child psychologist, told NBC that the boy “is most likely terrified.”
“The overriding thought in his head is that he wants his mother, that he just wants to be out of that situation,” he said.
“I wish that I could just hug him and hid him and tell him it was going to be all right,” said neighbor Sherri Johnson Parker.
Authorities are continuing their negotiations with Dykes, using the ventilation pipe that they have also been using to send down supplies.