Alabama Hostage Situation Continues
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)
Midland City, Ala. — Speaking into a 4-inch-wide ventilation pipe, hostage negotiators tried yesterday to talk a man into releasing a kindergartener and ending a standoff in an underground bunker that stretched into its third day.
The man identified by multiple neighbors and witnesses as 65-year-old retired truck driver Jimmy Lee Dykes was accused of pulling the boy from a school bus on Tuesday and killing the driver. The pair was holed up in a small room on his property that authorities compared to tornado shelters common in the area.
James Arrington, police chief of the neighboring town of Pinckard, said the shelter was about 4 feet underground, with about 6-by-8 feet of floor space and a PVC pipe that negotiators were speaking through.
There were signs that the standoff could continue for some time: A state legislator said the shelter has electricity, food and TV. The police chief said the captor has been sleeping and told negotiators that he has spent long periods in the shelter before.
“He will have to give up sooner or later because (authorities) are not leaving,” Arrington said. “It’s pretty small, but he’s been known to stay in there eight days.”
Midland City Mayor Virgil Skipper said he has been briefed by law enforcement and visited with the boy’s parents.
“He’s crying for his parents,” he said. “They are praying and asking all of us to pray with them.”
Republican Rep. Steve Clouse, who represents the Midland City area, said he visited the boy’s mother yesterday and that she is “hanging on by a thread.”
“Everybody is praying with her for the boy,” he said.
Clouse said the mother told him that the boy has Asperger’s syndrome, an autism-like disorder, as well as attention deficit hyperactivity disorder, or ADHD. Police have been delivering medication to him through the pipe, he said.
The normally quiet red clay road leading to the bunker was teeming yesterday with more than a dozen police cars and trucks, a fire truck, a helicopter, officers from multiple agencies, news media and at least one ambulance near Midland City, population 2,300.
As night fell and temperatures dipped into the low 40s, police and other emergency workers wore heavy coats outside a small church being used as a command post. Neighbors said Dykes had a small heater in the bunker.
Overhead, a small aircraft with blinking lights flew wide circles high above the man’s property. An ambulance remained parked on the side of the dirt road.
“The three past days have not been easy on anybody,” Dale County Sheriff Wally Olson said at a news briefing late yesterday. He said authorities were still communicating with the suspect, and that their primary goal was to get the boy home safely.
“There’s no reason to believe the child has been harmed,” he said.
Dykes was known around the neighborhood as a menacing figure who neighbors said 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 firearm.