A six-day hostage standoff came to an end Monday when a man holed up a bunker was found dead and police recovered the 5-year-old he abducted, according to a law enforcement official.
The child appeared to be OK emerging from the ordeal, the official said.
Two ambulances left the scene shortly before 4 p.m. (5 p.m. ET).
Last Tuesday, police say, Jimmy Lee Dykes boarded a Dale County school bus and demanded the driver hand over two children.
The driver, Charles Albert Poland Jr., refused, blocking access to the bus’s narrow aisle as at least 21 children escaped out of the back emergency door, authorities said.
Police say the gunman killed Poland, then grabbed a kindergartner before barricading himself and the boy inside a nearby bunker he had built.
In the ensuing days, officials said little about what was going on in the bunker or in their strategy, or what — if anything — Dykes wanted.
“Based on our discussions with Mr. Dykes, he feels like he has a story that’s important to him, although it’s very complex,” Dale County Sherriff Wally Olson said Monday before the hostage situation ended. He didn’t elaborate.
An FBI spokesman said Sunday that authorities continue “to maintain an open line of communication with Mr. Dykes.”
The boy suffers from Asperger’s syndrome and attention deficit disorder, State. Rep. Steve Clouse said.
Dykes told authorities that he had blankets and a heater in the bunker, and authorities have previously said the bunker — built 4 feet underground — has electricity.
Authorities hadn’t said how they were communicating with Dykes.
Meanwhile, residents and business owners in Midland City put up blue, red and black ribbons in support of the boy and Poland. Blue and red are the local school colors, and black is in honor of the slain bus driver.
The U.S. Navy confirmed Monday that Dykes served in the military from 1964 to 1969.
Naval records list him as an aviation maintenance administrationman third-class who served with units based in California and Atsugi, Japan. The job entails clerical work related to aircraft and aircraft maintenance, according to the Navy’s job description.
Neighbors and officials had described Dykes as a survivalist with “anti-government” views.
Even as the hostage situation continued Monday morning, plenty of police were on hand as schools in neighboring Ozark, Alabama, reopened for the first time since the incident began.
Dale County schools remained closed but were to reopen on Tuesday, the district said.
In Ozark, school officials decided to begin strictly enforcing a 15-foot safety zone around school buses required by state law. The law prohibits any unauthorized adults, including parents, from approaching within 15 feet of a school bus stop. If an unauthorized adult gets too close, bus drivers are supposed to close bus doors or drive away, if necessary, school officials said.
The abduction had rattled the nerves of many parents, said Rebecca Jules-McQuet, whose 5-year-old daughter returned to school Monday.
“You think about it every night when you go to bed that that little boy is not in his bed, with his mom and dad,” she said. “It’s heart-wrenching.
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