Sheriff thanks Ala. suspect for ‘taking care of our boy’
Effort to free 5-year-old was continuing at Midland City bunker
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.