News Column

Boy Hostage Safe, Gunman Reported Slain

Feb. 4, 2013

The seven-day bunker standoff ended in Alabama Monday with the gunman reportedly dead and his 5-year-old hostage "OK," authorities said.

WSFA-TV, Montgomery, reported authorities said the crisis had come to an end and NBC News indicated the boy was "OK" and the kidnapper, Jimmy Lee Dykes, 65, was said to be dead.

The TV station said reporters at the siege scene near Midland City reported hearing a loud explosion followed by an ambulance seen leaving the area without emergency lights or sirens activated.

Residents of Midland City had collected birthday cards for the boy being held in Dykes' bunker.

The boy, whose name has not been reported, will have his sixth birthday later this week, the Dothan (Ala.) Eagle reported Sunday.

Police said there was no previous connection between Dykes and the boy and they had not indicated what demands the hostage-taker had made.

The standoff began Tuesday after Dykes got on a school bus in Midland City and demanded the driver, Charles "Chuck" Poland Jr., hand over two children.

When Poland protected the children by blocking Dykes' access to the school bus aisle, the gunman shot the driver four times and grabbed the boy, taking him to his hiding place, police said.

A memorial service was conducted Sunday for Poland and Donny Bynum, the superintendent of Dale County schools, read letters written by children who rode Poland's bus, CNN reported.

"I'm sad to see you gone. You didn't deserve to die, but you died knowing you kept everyone safe," one letter said.

"Charles Albert Poland was a hero," Bynum said.

Officials had been in communication with Dykes through a 60-foot ventilation pipe that leads to the bunker.

During the weekend, Dykes allowed authorities to send down medication for the boy's Asperger's syndrome and attention deficit disorder and toys and crackers, CNN reported. Officials said they hoped he would continue to allow them to send comfort items to the boy.

Source: Copyright United Press International 2013