Jimmy Lee Dykes. REUTERS/Alabama Department of
A man who killed a school bus driver and then held a
5-year-old boy hostage in an underground bunker in rural
Alabama for nearly a week has been killed and the child plucked
to safety without injury, law enforcement officials say.
FBI agents entered the bunker to rescue the child after
fearing that he was in "imminent danger," said Steve
Richardson, special agent in charge in Mobile.
Negotiations with the suspect, identified as 65-year-old
Jimmy Lee Dykes, had deteriorated during the previous 24
hours, Richardson said during a televised news conference.
"Mr. Dykes was observed holding a gun," the FBI agent said.
The rescue of the boy came on the seventh day of a standoff
that drew national media coverage and gripped a rural corner
of southeast Alabama with dread.
The drama began when Dykes, a retired trucker and veteran of
the war in Vietnam, seized the kindergarten student last
Tuesday after boarding a school bus and killing its driver
with four shots from a 9 mm handgun, local sheriff's
department officials said.
Dykes fled with the child, identified only as Ethan, to a
homemade bunker on the man's property down a dirt road.
The child was being treated on Monday at a local hospital,
but was physically unharmed, Richardson said. The boy is due
to celebrate his birthday on Wednesday and, by all accounts,
was taken by Dykes at random.
It was not immediately clear how Dykes died.
A local law enforcement source said a stun or flash grenade
was detonated as part of the operation to free the boy, but
further details were not immediately released.
The hostage-taking came amid heightened concerns about gun
violence and school safety across the United States after the
December shooting deaths of 20 children and six adults at a
Connecticut elementary school.
Law enforcement officials had offered few insights about
Dykes and their negotiations with him ahead of the rescue
just after 3 p.m. local time.
Earlier on Monday, Dale County Sheriff Wally Olson said the
gunman had a "very complex" story to tell.
"Based on our discussion with Mr. Dykes, he feels like he has
a story that's important to him, although it's very complex.
And we try to make a safe environment for all for that,"
Olson said, without elaborating.
The sheriff's office previously had thanked Dykes for
allowing them to deliver medication, coloring books and toys
to the boy, who is said to suffer from Asperger's Syndrome
and attention deficit-hyperactivity disorder.