MIDLAND CITY, Ala. — Authorities stormed an underground bunker Monday in Alabama, freeing a 5-year-old boy and leaving his increasingly agitated captor dead after a week of fruitless negotiations that left authorities convinced the child was in imminent danger.
Jimmy Lee Dykes, 65, had taken the child off a school bus after fatally shooting the driver. He was known by neighbors for his anti-government rants and for patrolling his property with a gun, ready to shoot trespassers. He had stayed for several days in the tiny bunker before.
"He always said he'd never be taken alive. I knew he'd never come out of there," said an acquaintance, Roger Arnold.
Dykes had been seen with a gun, and officers concluded the boy was in imminent danger, said Steve Richardson of the FBI's office in Mobile. It was not immediately clear how authorities determined the man had a gun, or exactly how Dykes died.
Late Monday, officers were sweeping the property to make sure Dykes had not set up any bombs that could detonate. Full details of the bunker raid had not yet emerged. However, neighbors described hearing what sounded like gunshots around the time officials said they entered the shelter.
Michael Senn, pastor of a church near where reporters had been camped out since the standoff began, said he was relieved the child had been taken to safety. However, he also recalled the bus driver, Charles Albert Poland Jr., who had been hailed as a hero for protecting nearly two dozen other children on the bus before being shot by Dykes.
"As we rejoice tonight for (the boy) and his family, we still have a great emptiness in our community because a great man was lost in this whole ordeal," Senn said.
The rescue capped a long drama that drew national attention to this town of 2,400 people nestled amid peanut farms and cotton fields that has long relied on a strong Christian faith, a policy of "love thy neighbor" and the power of group prayer. The child's plight prompted nightly candlelight vigils.