According to an official in the Dale County, Ala. sheriff’s department, the man who took a child hostage after shooting a bus driver on Tuesday is a “survivalist” with “anti-America” views.
“His friends and his neighbors stated that he did not trust the government, that he was a Vietnam vet, and that he had PTSD,” Tim Byrd, chief investigator with the Dale County Sheriff’s Department, told The Southern Poverty Law Center’s Hatewatch blog on Wednesday. “He was standoffish, didn’t socialize or have any contact with anybody. He was a survivalist type.”
Authorities first responded after receiving a call of a shooting in Midland City, Ala. involving a Dale County school bus at 3:36 p.m. local time on Tuesday. Authorities later said the bus driver had died and that a child was involved in what they described as an “ongoing incident.” They identified the bus driver as Charles Albert Poland Jr., who had worked for Dale County since 2009.
Authorities have not, however, officially confirmed the hostage situation or the name of the suspect, which has widely been reported as Jimmy Lee Dykes. Dykes reportedly boarded the bus on Tuesday and shot Poland several times, then took a 6-year-old boy from the bus to a bunker near Dykes’ home, where they have remained.
According to al.com, authorities have been negotiating with Dykes through a PVC pipe leading into the bunker. The 6-year-old boy is reportedly autistic, and requires medication, which has been delivered. Dykes reportedly has no ties to the boy. Sources also told al.com that Dykes is looking for attention to “air his grievances.”
Dykes’ motives remain unclear. Al.com reported that Dykes was charged with menacing in December, after pointing a gun at a neighbor. Dykes was scheduled to have a bench trial related to the charge on Wednesday.
Michael Creel, Dykes’ neighbor, told The Dothan Eagle he went outside Tuesday after his sister heard gun shots, and Creel then attempted to run Dykes down.
“He’s 67 years old, so I figured I could catch him,” Creel told the paper. “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).”
Mark Potok, a senior fellow at The Southern Poverty Law Center, told TPM in an email Wednesday that the center was not aware of Dykes prior to speaking with Byrd. A spokesperson with the sheriff’s department did not immediately respond to a request to confirm Byrd’s account.
Eric Lach is a reporter for TPM. From 2010 to 2011, he was a news writer in charge of the website’s front page. He has previously written for The Daily, NewYorker.com, GlobalPost and other publications. He can be reached at ericl(at)talkingpointsmemo.com