Next Score View the next score

    Alabama captor rigged bunker with explosives

    Abducted boy is back home, said to be doing well

    A rescue responder stood Wednesday outside the law enforcement compound near the scene of the nearly week-long hostage standoff Midland City, Ala.
    Jay Hare/Associated Press
    A rescue responder stood Wednesday outside the law enforcement compound near the scene of the nearly week-long hostage standoff Midland City, Ala.

    MIDLAND CITY, Ala. — As FBI and police negotiators sought for days to coax an Alabama man into freeing a kindergartner held hostage in an underground bunker, the captor was planning for violence, authorities say.

    He rigged the bunker with explosives, tried to reinforce it against any raid, and when SWAT agents stormed the shelter Monday to rescue the boy, Jimmy Lee Dykes engaged in a firefight that left the captor dead, the FBI and other officials said.

    After the nearly weeklong ordeal, relatives say the boy who turned 6 on Wednesday appears to be doing well and is back at home. He was seized from a crowded school bus Jan. 29 after authorities say the 65-year-old gunman killed the driver and took the child to the bunker, where he was held until Monday’s rescue.


    While the FBI has largely been tight-lipped about how it monitored Dykes’s behavior and mood in the days leading up to the rescue, the latest disclosures suggest authorities were dealing with an abductor fully prepared for more violence even as he allowed police to send food, medicine, and toys into the bunker for the boy.

    Get Ground Game in your inbox:
    Daily updates and analysis on national politics from James Pindell.
    Thank you for signing up! Sign up for more newsletters here

    An FBI statement late Tuesday said Dykes had planted an explosive device in a ventilation pipe he’d told negotiators to use to communicate with him on his property in the rural Alabama community of Midland City.

    The suspect also placed another explosive device inside the bunker, the FBI added.

    Dykes appears to have ‘‘reinforced the bunker against any attempted entry by law enforcement,’’ FBI special agent Jason Pack said in the statement providing significant new details about how it all ended.

    When SWAT agents stormed the bunker to rescue the boy from the man’s property in the rural Alabama community of Midland City, Dykes ‘‘engaged in a firefight with the SWAT agents,’’ Pack added.


    Officers killed Dykes, said an official in Midland City, speaking on condition of anonymity because the official wasn’t authorized to discuss a pending investigation.

    According to the FBI, bomb technicians scouring the Dykes property in southeastern Alabama found the two explosive devices.

    The devices were ‘‘disrupted,’’ Pack said, though he did not say whether that meant they were detonated or disarmed.

    Children and teachers were trying to get back to normal, though some children who were on the bus where Dykes killed the driver on Jan. 29 have not yet returned to school, said Donny Bynum, superintendent of Midland City schools. Counselors and clergy are at the school to help any distraught students.

    Officials hope to eventually throw a party to celebrate the boy’s sixth birthday and to honor the memory of Charles Albert Poland Jr., the slain bus driver hailed as a hero for trying to protect nearly two dozen youngsters on his bus. No date has been set, Bynum said.