MIDLAND CITY, Ala. -- Law enforcement officers Monday stormed an underground bunker in southeastern Alabama, freeing a 5-year-old boy and shooting his captor to death after they became convinced the child was in imminent danger, officials said.
Jimmy Lee Dykes, 65, was holed up in the bunker with the child for nearly a week after taking the boy, believed to have Asperger's syndrome and attention deficit hyperactivity disorder, off a school bus and fatally shooting the bus driver on Jan 29, authorities said.
Dykes communicated with authorities through a ventilation pipe into the shelter. After days of fruitless negotiations, talks had deteriorated with an increasingly agitated Dykes. He had been seen with a gun, and officers concluded the boy was in imminent danger, said Steve Richardson of the FBI's Mobile office.
Dale County Sheriff Wally Olson said late yesterday that Dykes was armed when officers entered the bunker to rescue the child. He said the boy was threatened but declined to elaborate. "That's why we went inside -- to save the child," he said.
Olson and others declined to say how Dykes died. But an official in Midland City who wished to remain anonymous, citing information from law enforcement, said police shot Dykes.
Dykes was known by neighbors for his anti-government rants and for patrolling his property with a gun, ready to shoot trespassers. He had stayed for several days in the tiny bunker on his property before.
"He always said he'd never be taken alive. I knew he'd never come out of there," said an acquaintance, Roger Arnold.
Yesterday evening, officers were sweeping the property to make sure Dykes had not set up any bombs that could detonate. Full details of the bunker raid had not yet emerged. However, neighbors described hearing what sounded like gunshots around the time officials said they entered the shelter.
At a news conference late Monday, authorities declined to say how they had observed Dykes or how he died, citing the pending investigation.
Asked about the official's statement that Dykes had been killed by law enforcement officers, FBI spokesman Jason Pack said in an email early today: "The facts surrounding the incident will be established by a shooting review team from Washington, DC in the coming days."
The boy has been reunited with his mother and appears to be OK, authorities said.
Richardson said he had been to the hospital to see the boy and he was laughing, joking, eating and "doing the things you'd expect a normal 5- or 6-year-old to do."
Throughout the ordeal, authorities sent food, medicine and other items into the bunker, which apparently had running water, heat and cable television but no toilet. It was about 4 feet underground, with about 50 square feet of floor space.
Government records and interviews with neighbors indicate that Dykes joined the Navy in Midland City and served on active duty from 1964 to 1969. His record shows several awards, including the Vietnam Service Medal and the Good Conduct Medal. During his service, Dykes was trained in aviation maintenance.
On Sunday, driver Charles Albert Poland Jr. was hailed at his memorial service for protecting the two dozen other children on the bus.