Sher­iff thanks Ala. sus­pect for ‘tak­ing care of our boy’

Ef­fort to free 5-year-old was con­tin­u­ing at Mid­land City bunker

The Washington Post Sunday - - POLITICS & THE NATION - BY MELISSA NEL­SON- GABRIEL AND JAY REEVES — As­so­ci­ated Press

mid­land city, ala. — Au­thor­i­ties said Satur­day that they still have an open line of com­mu­ni­ca­tion with an Alabama man ac­cused of ab­duct­ing a 5-year-old boy and hold­ing him hostage in a bunker, and they thanked the sus­pect for tak­ing care of the child as the stand­off marked its fifth day.

Dale County Sher­iff Wally Ol­son said in a brief­ing with re­porters that Jimmy Lee Dykes had told au­thor­i­ties that he has blan­kets and an elec­tric heater in the bunker. Ol­son said Dykes al­lowed au­thor­i­ties to de­liver col­or­ing books, med­i­ca­tion and toys for the boy.

“I want to thank him for tak­ing care of our boy,” Ol­son said. “That’s very im­por­tant.”

Au­thor­i­ties say Dykes fa­tally shot a school bus driver Tues­day and took the boy to the un­der­ground bunker, which he built on his prop­erty in ru­ral Mid­land City.

Ol­son would not say whether Dykes had made any de­mands. Ol­son added that he is lim­ited in the de­tails he can re­lease.

FBI spokesman Ja­son Pack said

“I be­lieve he wants to rant and rave about pol­i­tics and government. He’s very con­cerned about his prop­erty. He doesn’t want his stuff messed with.”

Michael Creel, a neigh­bor of ab­duc­tion sus­pect Jimmy Lee Dykes

Satur­day that of­fi­cials were work­ing to es­tab­lish a com­mand cen­ter near the bunker.

Ne­go­tia­tors were still try­ing Satur­day to per­suade Dykes to sur­ren­der.

Po­lice were mostly stay­ing mum about the del­i­cate ne­go­ti­a­tions, but neigh­bors tried to fill in the blanks about Dykes, a Viet­nam-era veteran de­scribed by some as a men­ac­ing fig­ure with anti-government views.

One of Dykes’s next-door neigh­bors said the sus­pect spent two or three months con­struct­ing the bunker, dig­ging sev­eral feet into the ground and then build­ing a struc­ture of lum­ber and ply­wood, which he cov­ered with sand and dirt.

One neigh­bor, Michael Creel, said Dykes put plas­tic pipe un­der­ground from the bunker to the end of his drive­way so he could hear if any­one drove up to his gate. When Dykes fin­ished the shel­ter, a year or so ago, he in­vited Creel to see it — and Creel did.

“He was brag­ging about it. He said, ‘Come check it out,’ ” Creel said.

He said he be­lieves that Dykes’s goal in the stand­off is to pub­li­cize his po­lit­i­cal be­liefs.

“I be­lieve he wants to rant and rave about pol­i­tics and government,” Creel said. “He’s very con­cerned about his prop­erty. He doesn’t want his stuff messed with.”

Po­lice have used a PVC ven­ti­la­tion pipe for the bunker to talk to the man and de­liver med­i­ca­tion for the boy’s devel­op­ment and be­hav­ioral dis­or­ders, but they have not re­vealed how of­ten they are in touch or what the con­ver­sa­tions have been about. Au­thor­i­ties waited un­til Fri­day to con­firm the sus­pect’s iden­tity.

Although much of what is go­ing on in the bunker re­mains a mys­tery, lo­cal of­fi­cials who have spo­ken to po­lice or the boy’s fam­ily have de­scribed a small room with food, elec­tric­ity and a TV. An of­fi­cial said the boy has been cry­ing for his par­ents.

Po­lice have de­scribed the bunker as about four feet un­der­ground, with about six feet by eight feet of floor space.

Mean­while, Mid­land City res­i­dents held out hope that the stand­off would end safely and grieved for the slain bus driver and his fam­ily. Can­dle­light vig­ils have been held nightly at a gazebo in front of City Hall. Res­i­dents prayed, sang songs such as “Amaz­ing Grace” and nailed home­made wooden crosses on the gazebo’s rail­ings, along­side signs that read, “We are pray­ing for you.”

“We’re do­ing any lit­tle thing that helps show sup­port for him,” said 15-year-old Tay­lor Ed­wards.

At a brief news con­fer­ence Fri­day to re­lease a photo of Dykes, po­lice brushed off ques­tions about pos­si­ble charges. “It’s way too early for that,” said Kevin Cook, a spokesman for Alabama state troop­ers.

State Rep. Steve Clouse (R), who rep­re­sents the Mid­land City area, said that he vis­ited the boy’s moth- er and that she is “hang­ing on by a thread.” Clouse said the mother told him that the boy has Asperger’s syn­drome and at­ten­tion deficit hyper­ac­tiv­ity dis­or­der.

Neigh­bors said Dykes was eas­ily an­gered and once beat a dog to death with a lead pipe, threat­ened to shoot chil­dren for set­ting foot on his prop­erty and pa­trolled his yard at night with a flash­light and a firearm.

He was in the Navy from 1964 to 1969 and served some time in Ja­pan, ac­cord­ing to mil­i­tary records.

Au­thor­i­ties said Dykes boarded a stopped school bus car­ry­ing 21 chil­dren Tues­day af­ter­noon and told the driver that he wanted two boys, 6 to 8 years old. When the driver tried to block his way, the gun­man shot him sev­eral times and took the 5-year-old boy.

Res­i­dents say the bus driver, Charles Al­bert Poland Jr., 66, was a hero who gave his life to pro­tect the chil­dren on his bus.

Dykes had been sched­uled to ap­pear in court Wed­nes­day to an­swer charges that he shot at neigh- bors in a dis­pute last month over a speed bump.

One of the neigh­bors, Clau­dia Davis, said he yelled and fired shots at her and her fam­ily over dam­age that he claimed their pickup truck did to a makeshift speed bump in the dirt road. No one was hurt. As­so­ci­ated Press writ­ers Eric Tucker in Washington, Ta­mara Lush and Phillip Rawls in Mid­land City and Bob John­son in Mont­gomery, Ala., and AP re­searcher Rhonda Shafner in New York contributed to this report.


Trooper Kevin Cook is sur­rounded by jour­nal­ists in Mid­land City. Au­thor­i­ties weren’t say­ing much about their talks with the sus­pect.

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