More details have emerged regarding the Midland, Alabama hostage standoff centering around a 6-year-old kindergarten student kidnapped from a school bus who is currently being held in an underground bunker.
The kidnapper has been identified as Jimmy Lee Dykes, a 65-year-old military veteran who lives on a rural Private Road 1539 off of U.S. Highway 231. On Tuesday at 3:30 PM, Dykes assaulted a school bus and demanded hostages to hold off the “law coming for him.” He then fatally shot the driver multiple times after he attempted to prevent Dykes from escaping with a child.
The county coroner, Woodrow Hilboldt, said that Dykes had his hostage held in “what has been described to me as an underground bunker. Someplace to get out of the way of a tornado.”
Neighbors described Dykes' behavior as erratic. “It's the craziest thing. He will be outside in his yard digging dirt at 2:30 AM in the morning,” James Davis Jr. said.
“He’s the type that thinks the government’s out to get him. He’s not right in the head,” adds neighbor Michael Creel.
Creel said he had attempted to stop Dykes.
“He’s 67 years old, so I figured I could catch him,” he said. “Apparently he didn’t go through the field like I thought. He’s got a four-foot-wide, about six-foot-long, eight-foot-deep homemade bomb shelter. It’s got about three to four feet of sand on top of it. If you didn’t know it was there, you wouldn’t [notice it].”
Law enforcement descended upon Dyke’s residence Tuesday. The house is now surrounded by dozens of SWAT team members, police, and federal agents, while reporters are being prevented from accessing the crime scene.
No other children on the bus were harmed and it is believed Dykes only has one hostage.
Police have identified the slain bus driver as Charles Albert Poland, 66, who has worked for the Dale County Board of Education since 2009.
Poland’s boss, Dale County Schools Superintendent Donny Bynum, said that the driver was a hero and that authorities “are doing everything within their powers to see to the safe release of this six year-old kindergarten student.”
Dykes was scheduled to appear in court Wednesday for charges of menacing neighbors as they drove past his house last month. The neighbors claimed he yelled and fire shots after their pickup truck damaged a makeshift speed bump in his dirt road.
“Before this happened I would see him at several places and he would just stare a hole through me,” Claudia Davis, one of the three plaintiffs in the menacing case, said. “On Monday I saw him at a laundry mat and he seen me when I was getting in my truck and he just stared and stared and stared at me.”