The hostage situation in Midland City, Ala. is over.
At a press conference Monday evening, authorities offered the first few details about the end of the small-town saga, which had stretched nearly a week.
Steve Richardson, a special agent with the FBI in Alabama, confirmed to reporters that the kidnapper, Jimmy Lee Dykes, was dead, and that the small boy Dykes had held in an underground bunker since last Tuesday was at least physically unharmed, and being treated at a local hospital.
FBI agents recovered the child at 3:12 p.m. local time Monday, after negotiations with Dykes deteriorated and he was observed holding a gun, he said. FBI agents then “entered the bunker and rescued the child,” Richardson said. Richardson did not state explicitly how Dykes was killed.
The motives behind Dykes’ actions remained unclear. Last Tuesday, Dykes reportedly boarded a Dale County school bus and shot and killed the driver, Charles Albert Poland Jr., then took the 5-year-old boy, whose name has been reported as Ethan, off the bus and to a bunker on his property. Al.com reported last week that Dykes had been charged with a menacing in December, after pointing a gun at a neighbor. Dykes was scheduled to have a bench trial related to the charge last Wednesday.
Over the last week, law enforcement agents attempted to negotiate with Dykes via a PVC pipe that led into the bunker, through which authorities were also able to deliver medication and coloring books for the child.
Tim Byrd, chief investigator with the Dale County Sheriff’s Department, told The Southern Poverty Law Center’s Hatewatch blog last week that Dykes was 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,” Byrd said. “He was standoffish, didn’t socialize or have any contact with anybody. He was a survivalist type.”reported that people who knew Dykes saw him as odd and menacing.
“We call him Mean Man,” Ronda Wilbur, who lives across the street from Dykes’ property, said. “He killed my dog with a lead pipe.”
After law enforcement announced the resolution of the situation on Monday, Alabama Gov. Robert Bentley (R) issued a statement thanking law enforcement agents for their efforts over the past week.
“I want to thank the law enforcement, first responders and all additional personnel who worked tireless hours to bring this situation to a resolution. They performed heroic efforts, and they should be praised for how they handled themselves in a professional manner,” Bentley said. “I am thankful that the child who was abducted is now safe. I am so happy this little boy can now be reunited with his family and friends. We will all continue to pray for the little boy and his family as they recover from the trauma of the last several days.”
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