In what is becoming a numbing litany of shooting deaths in recent months, the latest unfolds in real time and involves a hostage situation as yet unresolved. An Alabama man named Jimmy Lee Dykes allegedly shot and killed the local school bus driver, Charles Albert Poland Jr., 66, on Tuesday afternoon, January 29th, then grabbed a young child riding on the bus and is currently holding him hostage in a bunker built behind his home in Midland City, Alabama.
As Alabama paper, the Dothan Eagle reported early in the crisis:
Around 3:30 p.m., a man identified by neighbors as 67-year-old Jimmy Lee Dykes allegedly boarded a Dale County school bus as it made a stop on Private Road 1539 in Midland City and shot Poland before leaving with a 5- or 6-year-old child.
Witnesses and neighbors said Dykes fled into a homemade bunker located on his property.
Dale County Sheriff Wally Olsen said the situation, which he wouldn’t confirm as a hostage situation, was ongoing late Tuesday night, adding that he believed the child was unharmed at the time but that the situation was unlikely to conclude quickly.
Witnesses report that Dykes didn’t appear to know the child and has no children of his own. Witness statements also make clear that “Mr. Jimmy” is known for being hostile and aggressive. Some told stories of encountering him in public places and having him just “stare” at them. Another neighbor, James Edward Davis, Jr., reported him to police in December for pulling a gun on him and daughter after Dykes accused them of pulling into his yard. Dykes was arrested and is charged with “menacing.”
Davis stated that Dykes had built a bunker behind his residence; another neighbor, Michael Creel, confirmed this:
“He’s the type that thinks the government’s out to get him,” said Creel, who also said Dykes is a Vietnam veteran. “He’s not right in the head.”
Creel said he attempted to chase the shooter down once someone told him the direction Dykes had headed.
“He’s 67 years old, so I figured I could catch him,” Creel said. “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).” [Source]
The children on the bus were understandably traumatized, particularly when the bus driver attempted to avert the kidnapping. Once again, Michael Creel had the report:
“I talked to a girl that was riding the bus, and she told me that he came on the bus and said, ‘I need two kids between the ages of 6 and 8,’” Creel said. “The driver told him, ‘I can’t do that.’ (The driver) tried to get away from the guy.” [Source; Emphasis added.]
The bus driver was shot and killed.
The local pastor, Michael Senn, was also able to speak to and offer comfort to some of the children. CNN reports:
He said a girl described the shooter getting aboard.
“He told most of them to get off the bus,” Senn related. “And then he grabbed a little boy and shot the bus driver four times.” The driver’s body was removed from the bus early Wednesday, WDHN reported.
Mike Creel, the suspect’s neighbor, said he also talked to some of the children who escaped the bus. It was a terrifying scene, Creel told the affiliate.
The suspect initially demanded two children, Creel told WSFA.
“The one child he got ahold of actually fainted,” said Creel. “That was the reason he was able to grab him. And now he is hidden in his homemade bomb shelter.”
The Dade County coroner confirmed that the hostage situation continues into Wednesday, with a phalanx of officials, tactical units, and FBI hostage negotiators gathered in the area. People have been evacuated from their homes, though some have been unable to leave because the roads have been blocked by police.
As of this writing, the boy is reportedly “okay…the situation is considered delicate.” [Source]
The child has so far not been identified. More as the story unfolds.