A 67-year-old anti-government survivalist who shot and killed a school bus driver remains hunkered down in a southeast Alabama underground bunker Wednesday where he has been holding a 6-year-old boy hostage since Tuesday afternoon.
A witness told USA Today that Jimmy Lee Dykes stepped onto the bus, told bus driver Charles Albert Poland, Jr., 66, that he wanted two boys, ages six to eight, but did not say why he wanted the boys.
When Poland tried to stop Dykes, Dykes fired four shots at Poland with a handgun. Poland, a school bus driver since 2009, died later.
Police, SWAT teams and negotiators kept vigil near the bunker Wednesday where Dykes is still holding the little boy. Law enforcement identified the man as a Navy veteran. Neighbors say Dykes was scheduled to appear in court Wednesday in response to charges he’d shot at local residents in a dispute over a speed bump.
Patricia Smith, who lives across the street from Dykes in the rural community of Midland City, located in far southeastern Alabama, said her children were on the bus Tuesday afternoon when the shooting occurred. They told her two other children had just been dropped off when Dykes stepped onto the bus and grabbed the door so Poland could not close it.
Dykes then took the boy to a homemade bunker that he reportedly had been constructing for years on his nearby property.
Authorities have been communicating with Dykes through a PVC pipe connected to the bunker. WSFA-TV reported authorities have been able to pass medicine to the young hostage.
The Southern Poverty Law Center’s Hatewatch, which tracks radical hate groups, said Tim Byrd, chief investigator with the Dale County Sheriff’s Office, describes Dykes as having “anti-America” views and ties with the antigovernment “survivalist” movement.
“His friends and his neighbors stated that he did not trust the government, that he was a Vietnam vet, and that he has PTSD,” Byrd said. “He was standoffish, did not socialize or have any contact with anybody. He was a survivalist type.”
The Dothan Eagle reports they were told by neighbor Michael Creel that Dykes’ bunker is similar to those used against tornadoes and that it is four feet wide, six feet long and about eight feet deep. He said it is covered in sand.
Neighbors say Dykes did not appear to know the child he took from the bus and has no children of his own.
James Edward Davis, Jr., who lives near Dykes on Private Road 1539, told the Dothan Eagle that Dykes constructed the bunker behind his residence with a PVC pipe leading to the back end of the residence. “It’s the craziest thing,” he said. “He will be outside in his yard digging dirt at 2:30 in the morning.”
Creel said, “He’s the type that thinks the government’s out to get him. He’s not right in the head.” Creel said Dykes is a Vietnam veteran.
After the shooting Tuesday afternoon, children began running down a hill to the nearby Destiny Church just off US 231. Several children were escorted from the scene by parents. All Dale County and Ozark City Schools are closed Wednesday.