Kidnapped Alabama boy seems to be OK

Abductor’s body still in bunker

Negotiators communicated for nearly a week with Jimmy Lee Dykes through a pipe that led to the underground bunker.
Federal Bureau of investigation
Negotiators communicated for nearly a week with Jimmy Lee Dykes through a pipe that led to the underground bunker.

MIDLAND CITY, Ala. — The Alabama man who held a 5-year-old boy captive for nearly a week engaged in a firefight with SWAT agents storming his underground bunker before he was killed during the rescue operation, the FBI said Tuesday night. Also, bomb technicians scouring his rural property found two explosive devices, one in the bunker, one in a plastic pipe that negotiators used to communicate with the man.

Officers killed Jimmy Lee Dykes, said an official, speaking on condition of anonymity. Monday’s bunker raid came six days after Dykes boarded a school bus, fatally shot the driver, and abducted the boy.

Dykes, 65, “reinforced the bunker against any attempted entry by law enforcement,” FBI Special Agent Jason Pack said in an e-mail. The devices found were “disrupted,” Pack said, though he did not say whether that meant they were detonated or disarmed. Officers will continue to sweep the 100-acre property and, when they finish, authorities can more thoroughly investigate, Pack said.


For days, officers passed food, medicine, toys, and other items into the bunker, which was similar to a tornado shelter and apparently had water, heat, and cable television.

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On Monday, authorities said, Dykes had a gun and appeared increasingly agitated, though it was unclear how his behavior changed. Negotiations deteriorated. Law enforcement agents could view Dykes with some sort of camera, which is how they saw that he had a gun.

Pack declined to get into specifics, but confirmed that high-tech surveillance equipment was used.

Neighbors said they heard explosions and gunshots, though the FBI and local authorities did not say how many shots were fired and by whom.

No officers or agents were injured.


The boy also appeared to be doing well Tuesday at a hospital, acting like a normal kid. He ran around, playing with a toy dinosaur and other action figures, eating a turkey sandwich, and watching “SpongeBob SquarePants,” relatives and Sheriff Wally Olson said.

“We know he’s OK physically, but we don’t know how he is mentally,” said Betty Jean Ransbottom, the boy’s grandmother. She added that she feared the ordeal would stay with the child, who turns 6 on Wednesday.

The family was relieved and grateful for all the support in a community where ribbons, fliers, and vigils all symbolized the prayers for the safe return of the boy, whom law enforcement officials have only identified by his first name, Ethan.

The boy’s mother expressed her thanks for all the hard work of so many officers to bring her son home. The woman declined to be identified, the statement said.

“For the first time in almost a week, I woke up this morning to the most beautiful sight ... my sweet boy,” she said. “I can’t describe how incredible it is to hold him again.”