Law enforcement officials near the bunker where the boy was
held. REUTERS/Phil Sears
Authorities used a hidden camera to watch a man holding a
boy hostage in an underground bunker in rural Alabama and moved
in to rescue the child after the suspect was seen wielding a
gun and looking agitated, according to news reports.
The nearly weeklong standoff with Jimmy Lee Dykes, 65, began
after he gunned down a school bus driver and snatched the
boy. It ended on Monday with Dykes' death and the safe
recovery of the kindergarten student, identified only as
The boy, who turns 6 on Wednesday, was reunited with his
mother and taken to a hospital for treatment, but appeared
physically unharmed, law enforcement officials said.
"He's laughing, joking, playing, eating," said FBI Special
Agent Steve Richardson, who had visited with the child.
Authorities released few details about their extended
negotiations with Dykes or their decision to storm the
homemade bunker on his property near Midland City, in
At a news conference on Monday, Richardson said talks had
deteriorated in the 24 hours ahead of the rescue, and Dykes
was seen holding a gun.
NPR reported that officials monitored Dykes with a camera
they had managed to get into the underground shelter. Dykes
initially attended to the boy's needs and seemed to sleep
peacefully, but later appeared agitated and ignored the
child, sources told NPR, which cited unnamed law enforcement
To prepare for the rescue, FBI agents trained using a mock
bunker officials had created near the site, according to ABC
News, citing unnamed sources.
A local law enforcement source told Reuters that a stun or
flash grenade was detonated before agents shot and killed
The end of the hostage situation brought a collective sigh of
relief in the rural corner of Alabama where it played out.
Several local schools reopened on Tuesday for the first time
since the shooting a week ago, and officials said counselors
were on hand to help students.
"If I could, I would do cartwheels all the way down the
road," Debra Cook, identified as the boy's great aunt, said
on ABC's Good Morning America. "You know, we had all been
walking around in a fog ... There's no words to put how we
felt and how relieved we were."
The drama captured national attention amid heightened U.S.
concerns about gun violence and school safety after the
December shooting deaths of 20 children and six adults at a
Connecticut elementary school.
A White House official said President Barack Obama called FBI
Director Robert Mueller on Monday evening "to compliment him
for the role federal law enforcement officers played in
resolving the hostage situation in Alabama," Politico
"The president praised the exceptional coordination between
state, local and federal partners, and thanked all the law
enforcement officials involved during the nearly weeklong
ordeal for their roles in the successful rescue of the
child," the White House official said.
Dykes, a retired trucker who served in the Navy during the
Vietnam War era, had been due to appear in court last
Wednesday to face a menacing charge involving one of his
On the eve of his trial before a judge, Dykes boarded a
school bus carrying more than 20 children home and demanded
that the driver let a student off the bus, according to
When the driver, Charles Albert Poland, 66, refused, Dykes
shot him four times with a 9 mm handgun, killing Poland, and
fled with the boy, officials said.
On Tuesday, the other students who had been on Poland's route
were accompanied by a pastor and a state transportation
official as they rode a new bus to school, educators said.
School administrators said they were working on plans for a
party to honour Poland's memory and celebrate Ethan's
"We have a long way to go on this healing process," said
Donny Bynum, superintendent of Dale County Schools. "We will
process it out and learn from it to prevent it from ever