Sunday, Jul 24, 2016
One of America's Great Newspapers ~ Toledo, Ohio

Nation

Alabama town’s residents pray for release of 5-year-old hostage

Negotiators talk through ventilation pipe to captor in bunker

  • School-Bus-Driver-Shot-5

    Law officers at the Dale County hostage scene in Midland City, Ala. on Thursday morning, Jan. 31, 2013. A gunman holed up in a bunker with a young hostage has kept law officers at bay since the standoff began when he killed a school bus driver and dragged the boy away, authorities said. (AP Photo/Montgomery Advertiser, Mickey Welsh)

    <ASSOCIATED PRESS

  • School-Bus-Driver-Shot-6

    Law enforcement personnel load provisions into a bus during the third day of a hostage crisis involving a 5-year-old boy, in Midland City, Ala, Thursday, Jan 31, 2013. A standoff in rural Alabama went into a second full day Thursday as police surrounded an underground bunker where a retired truck driver was holding a 5-year-old hostage he grabbed off a school bus after shooting the driver dead. 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. (AP Photo/The Dothan Eagle, Jay Hare)

    <ASSOCIATED PRESS

  • School-Bus-Driver-Shot-7

    Dale County Sheriff Wally Olsen briefs the media at the Dale County hostage scene in Midland City, Ala. on Wednesday, Jan. 30, 2013. A gunman holed up in a bunker with a 6-year-old hostage kept law officers at bay Wednesday in an all-night, all-day standoff that began when he killed a school bus driver and dragged the boy away, authorities said. (AP Photo/Montgomery Advertiser, Mickey Welsh)

    <ASSOCIATED PRESS

  • School-Bus-Driver-Shot-8

    An officer walks near a check point, Wednesday, Jan. 31, 2013, in Midland City, Ala., below the home where Tuesday's school bus shooting suspect is barricaded in a bunker with a five-year-old boy as hostage. Speaking into a 4-inch-wide ventilation pipe, hostage negotiators tried Thursday to talk a man into releasing a kindergartener and ending a standoff in an underground bunker that stretched into its third day. (AP Photo/Dothan Eagle, Jay Hare)

    <ASSOCIATED PRESS

  • School-Bus-Driver-Shot-9

    Law officers at the Dale County hostage scene in Midland City, Ala. on Thursday morning, Jan. 31, 2013. A gunman holed up in a bunker with a 6-year-old hostage has kept law officers at bay since the standoff began when he killed a school bus driver and dragged the boy away, authorities said. (AP Photo/Montgomery Advertiser, Mickey Welsh)

    <ASSOCIATED PRESS

  • School-Bus-Driver-Shot-10

    In this undated photo released by the Dale County Board of Education, bus driver Charles Albert Poland, Jr., is shown. A standoff in rural Alabama went into a second full day Thursday as police surrounded an underground bunker where a retired truck driver was holding a 5-year-old hostage he grabbed off a school bus after shooting Poland, the driver dead. Poland Jr., 66, was hailed by locals as a hero who gave his life to protect the 21 students aboard the bus. (AP Photo/ Dale County Board of Education)

    <ASSOCIATED PRESS

  • Midland-City-Hostage-Crisis

    Law enforcement officials continue to work the scene of the hostage crisis in Midland City, Ala., Friday, Feb. 1, 2013.

    <ASSOCIATED PRES

  • School-Bus-Driver-Shot-11

    Law officers stand beside the Alabama State trooper mobile command post at the Dale County hostage scene in Midland City, Ala. on Thursday, Jan. 31, 2013. A gunman holed up in a bunker with a 6-year-old hostage has kept law officers at bay since the standoff began when he killed a school bus driver and dragged the boy away, authorities said. (AP Photo/Montgomery Advertiser, Mickey Welsh)

    <ASSOCIATED PRESS

  • School-Bus-Driver-Shot-12

    Law enforcement personnel work at check point Wednesday, Jan. 30, 2013, in Midland City, Ala., near the home where the Tuesday's school bus shooting suspect is barricaded in a bunker with a young child as hostage. Police, SWAT teams and negotiators were at a rural property where a man was believed to be holed up in a homemade bunker Wednesday after fatally shooting the driver of a school bus and fleeing with a 6-year-old child passenger, authorities said. (AP Photo/The Dothan Eagle, Jay Hare)

    <ASSOCIATED PRESS

  • School-Bus-Driver-Shot-13

    Heavily armed men come back down the hill from the direction of the suspect's home at the Dale County hostage scene near Midland City, Ala. on Wednesday Jan. 30, 2013. Police SWAT teams and hostage negotiators were locked in a standoff Wednesday with a gunman authorities say intercepted a school bus, killed the driver, snatched a 6-year-old boy and retreated into a bunker at his home. (AP Photo/Montgomery Advertiser, Mickey Welsh) NO SALES

    <ASSOCIATED PRESS

  • School-Bus-Driver-Shot-14

    Law officers at the Dale County hostage scene in Midland City, Ala. on Thursday, Jan. 31, 2013. A gunman holed up in a bunker with a 6-year-old hostage has kept law officers at bay since the standoff began when he killed a school bus driver and dragged the boy away, authorities said. (AP Photo/Montgomery Advertiser, Mickey Welsh)

    <ASSOCIATED PRESS

  • School-Bus-Driver-Shot-15

    Police vehicles are staged near where a gunman has positioned himself below ground with a child hostage, in Midland City, Ala. on Wednesday Jan. 30, 2013. Authorities were locked in a standoff Wednesday with a gunman authorities say on Tuesday intercepted a school bus, killed the driver, snatched a 6-year-old boy and retreated into a bunker at his home in Alabama. (AP Photo/Montgomery Advertiser, Mickey Welsh)

    <ASSOCIATED PRESS

  • Bus-Shooting

    In this Wednesday, Jan 30, 2013 photo, media outlets those from around the state of Alabama broadcast while covering the ongoing hostage crisis, in Midland City Ala. Police, SWAT teams and negotiators were at a rural property where a man was believed to be holed up in a homemade bunker Wednesday after fatally shooting the driver of a school bus and fleeing with a 6-year-old child passenger, authorities said. (AP Photo/Dothan Eagle, Jay Hare)

    <ASSOCIATED PRESS

Midland-City-Hostage-Crisis

Law enforcement officials continue to work the scene of the hostage crisis in Midland City, Ala., Friday, Feb. 1, 2013.

ASSOCIATED PRES Enlarge

MIDLAND CITY, Ala.— Residents in a rural Alabama town prayed and called for the release of a 5-year-old boy being held captive underground for a fourth day by a man accused of gunning down a bus driver and then taking the child hostage.

The suspected gunman has been locked in a standoff with law enforcement officers near the small town of Midland City since Tuesday, when authorities say he grabbed the kindergarten student from a school bus after fatally shooting 66-year-old driver Charles Albert Poland Jr.

The suspect and child, who by all accounts did not know each other, then disappeared into an underground bunker on the man’s property in southeastern Alabama that is said to be equipped with electricity and several weeks’ worth of supplies.

The shooting and hostage-taking happened as a national debate rages over gun violence, especially in schools, after a gunman shot dead 20 students and six staff members at a Connecticut elementary school in December.

Law enforcement negotiators have continued to communicate with the man identified by neighbors as 65-year-old Jimmy Lee Dykes. Officials said they believed the child was unharmed.

Michael Senn, a pastor who lives near the private dirt road that runs onto Dykes’ property, told the Dothan Eagle newspaper that authorities had been able to maintain contact with Dykes through some sort of pipe, possibly made of PVC, leading into the bunker.

“They’ve been talking to him pretty regularly,” Senn said.

Law enforcement officials have offered few details about the standoff and have not officially released the names of the suspect or the child.

But homemade signs seen around the town identify the boy as Ethan. A school official said his sixth birthday is next week.

Messages such as “Please release Ethan” and “Pray 4 Ethan” were tacked up outside the town hall, where a somber candlelight vigil on Thursday night drew about 100 people.

Many of those in attendance were students at Dale County High School, which along with several other local schools have been closed while the standoff drags on.

Dykes had been due to appear for a bench trial on Wednesday after his arrest last month on a menacing charge involving one of his neighbors, court records showed.

A Dale County Sheriff’s Office investigator told the Southern Poverty Law Center’s Hatewatch blog this week that Dykes had been described as a Vietnam veteran and survivalist who did not trust the government.

Click to comment

Quis autem vel eum iure reprehenderit qui in ea voluptate velit esse quam nihil molestiae consequatur, vel illum qui dolorem?

Temporibus autem quibusdam et aut officiis debitis aut rerum necessitatibus saepe eveniet.

Copyright © 2015 Toledo Blade

To Top

Fetching stories…