Standoff after hostage, 5, taken

Armed men outside the suspect's home near Midland City, Ala. The standoff along a red dirt road began Tuesday.
Armed men outside the suspect's home near Midland City, Ala. The standoff along a red dirt road began Tuesday. (MICKEY WELSH / Montgomery Advertiser)

A gunman was holding the boy in bunker after boarding school bus, killing the driver.

Posted: January 31, 2013

MIDLAND CITY, Ala. - A gunman holed up in a bunker with a 5-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.

SWAT teams took up positions around the gunman's rural property, and police negotiators tried to win the kindergartner's safe release.

The gunman, identified by neighbors as Jimmy Lee Dykes, 65, a retired truck driver, was known around the neighborhood as a menacing figure who once beat a dog to death with a lead pipe, threatened to shoot children for setting foot on his property, and patrolled his yard at night with a flashlight and a shotgun.

He had been scheduled to appear in court Wednesday morning to answer charges that he shot at his neighbors in a dispute last month over a speed bump.

The standoff along a red dirt road began Tuesday afternoon, after a gunman boarded a stopped school bus filled with children in the town of Midland City, population 2,300. Sheriff Wally Olson said the man shot the bus driver when he refused to hand over a 5-year-old child. The gunman then took the boy away.

"As far as we know, there is no relation at all. He just wanted a child for a hostage situation," said Michael Senn, a pastor who helped comfort the traumatized children after the attack.

The bus driver, Charles Albert Poland Jr., 66, was hailed by locals as a hero who gave his life to protect 21 students.

Authorities gave no details on the standoff, and it was unclear whether Dykes made any demands from his underground bunker, which resembled a tornado shelter.

About 50 vehicles from federal, state, and local agencies were clustered at the end of a dirt road near where Dykes lived in a small travel trailer. Nearby homes were evacuated after authorities found what was believed to be a bomb on his property.

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