Read as much as you want on BostonGlobe.com, anywhere and anytime, for just 99¢.

Authorities storm Ala. bunker, rescue boy, 5

Six-day standoff ends with death of kidnapper

Jimmy Lee Dykes

Jimmy Lee Dykes

MIDLAND CITY, Ala. — Authorities stormed an underground bunker Monday in southeastern Alabama, freeing a 5-year-old boy and leaving his captor dead after a week of fruitless negotiations that left authorities convinced the child was in imminent danger.

Jimmy Lee Dykes, 65, had taken the child off a school bus after fatally shooting the driver, authorities said. He was known by neighbors for his antigovernment rants and for patrolling his property with a gun, ready to shoot trespassers. He had stayed for several days in the tiny bunker before.

Continue reading below

‘‘He always said he’d never be taken alive. I knew he’d never come out of there,’’ said an acquaintance, Roger Arnold.

Dykes had been seen with a gun, and officers concluded the boy was in danger, said Steve Richardson of the FBI’s office in Mobile. It was not immediately clear how authorities determined the man had a gun or exactly how Dykes died.

Monday 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 late Monday news conference, authorities declined to elaborate on how they had observed Dykes or on how he died, citing the pending investigation.

Dale County Sheriff Wally Olson said Dykes was armed when officers entered the bunker to rescue the child. He said the boy was threatened but declined to elaborate.

Jimmy Lee Dykes

Quote Icon

‘‘That’s why we went inside — to save the child,’’ he said.

Authorities said the boy, who was taken to a hospital in nearby Dothan, has been reunited with his mother and appears to be OK.

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.’’

Michael Senn, pastor of a church near where reporters had been camped out since the standoff began, said he was relieved the child had been taken to safety. He also recalled the bus driver, Charles Albert Poland Jr., who had been hailed as a hero for protecting nearly two dozen children on the bus before being shot by Dykes.

‘‘As we rejoice tonight for [the boy] and his family, we still have a great emptiness in our community because a great man was lost in this whole ordeal,’’ Senn said.

The rescue capped a long drama that drew national attention to this town of 2,400 people nestled amid peanut farms and cotton fields that has long relied on a strong Christian faith, a policy of ‘‘love thy neighbor,’’ and the power of group prayer.

The child’s plight prompted nightly candlelight vigils.

Throughout the ordeal, authorities had been speaking with Dykes though a plastic pipe that went into the shelter. They also 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.

Melissa Knighton, city clerk in Midland City, said a woman had been praying in the town center Monday afternoon. Not long after, the mayor called with news that Dykes was dead and that the boy was safe.

‘‘She must have had a direct line to God because shortly after she left, they heard the news,’’ Knighton said.

Neighbors described Dykes as a menacing, unpredictable man who once beat a dog to death with a lead pipe.

Government records indicate he served in the Navy from 1964 to 1969, earning several awards, including the Vietnam Service Medal and the Good Conduct Medal.

He had scrapes with the law in Florida, including a 1995 arrest for improper exhibition of a weapon. The misdemeanor was dismissed.

He returned to Alabama two years ago, moving onto the rural tract about 100 yards from his nearest neighbors.

Dykes believed the government had control of many things, including a dog track he frequented in the Florida Panhandle. Arnold said that Dykes believed if a dog was far ahead and wasn’t supposed to win, the government would shock it.

Ronda Wilbur, a neighbor of Dykes who said the man beat her dog to death last year with a pipe, said she was relieved to be done with the stress of knowing Dykes was patrolling his yard and willing to shoot at anyone or anything that trespassed.

‘‘The nightmare is over,’’ she said. ‘‘It’s been a long couple of years of having constant stress.’’

Loading comments...
Subscriber Log In

You have reached the limit of 5 free articles in a month

Stay informed with unlimited access to Boston’s trusted news source.

  • High-quality journalism from the region’s largest newsroom
  • Convenient access across all of your devices
  • Today’s Headlines daily newsletter
  • Subscriber-only access to exclusive offers, events, contests, eBooks, and more
  • Less than 25¢ a week
Marketing image of BostonGlobe.com
Marketing image of BostonGlobe.com