Officials on Monday rescued a 5-year-old boy who had been held hostage for nearly a week in an underground bunker in rural Alabama and his abductor was dead, ending a standoff that had gripped the nation.
The boy, known as Ethan, was taken to a hospital and appeared to be physically unharmed, Stephen E. Richardson, the special agent in charge of the FBI's office in Mobile, Ala., told a nationally televised news conference.
The man who took the boy hostage and into the bunker, Jimmy Lee Dykes, 65, was dead at the scene, Richardson said. He gave no details on the rescue or how Dykes died.
Richardson said officials would release more details as they become available.
"We appreciate everybody in law enforcement pulling together to get this job done," Dale County Sheriff Wally Olson told reporters. Olson had been the face and voice of officials throughout the ordeal.
Dykes, a Navy veteran, stormed a school bus last Tuesday and shot the driver to death, then kidnapped the boy. He held the child prisoner in a 6-by-8-foot underground bunker on his property in Midland City, Ala., about 90 miles from Montgomery.
Things were quiet for almost a week as officials insisted they wanted to out wait Dykes.
But that changed Monday afternoon, Richardson told reporters.
"Within the past 24 hours, negotiations deteriorated and Mr. Dykes was observed holding a gun," Richardson said.
"At this point, FBI agents fearing the child was in imminent danger entered the bunker and rescued the child."
The rescue took place "approximately at 3:12 p.m.," Richardson said, with FBI agents safely recovering the child.
Dykes attacked the school bus a day before he was to appear in local court to answer charges of menacing a neighbor. According to residents of Midland City, Dykes was a fierce presence, firing shots at people and beating to death a dog that trespassed on his property.
The bus driver killed in the attack, Charles Poland Jr., was buried on Sunday after townspeople hailed him as a hero for protecting the more than 20 children on the bus.
Authorities maintained contact with Dykes through a 4-inch PVC pipe through which medicine was sent into the underground shelter, built by Dykes. Ethan was said to have autism.
Dykes joined the Navy in Midland City, serving on active duty from 1964 to 1969. He had some scrapes with the law in Florida, including a 1995 arrest for improper exhibition of a weapon. The misdemeanor was dismissed.
Dykes returned to Alabama about two years ago, moving onto the rural property where he built the shelter.
By Michael Muskal - Los Angeles Times (MCT)
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