Tense Negotiations in Alabama Kidnapping

USA(ANN) A tense standoff in rural Alabama involving a man with a history of violent behavior and a 5-year-old boy he abducted from a school bus is unlikely to end quickly, law enforcement officials said Thursday. The two

remained holed up in the man’s underground bunker.

The man, identified as Jimmy Lee Dykes, 65, boarded a bus on Tuesday that was carrying children home from school. He fatally shot the driver and grabbed the boy.

On Tuesday afternoon, local law enforcement officials, the F.B.I. and S.W.A.T. teams surrounded the bunker in Midland City, a small town in southern Alabama near the Florida and Georgia borders, a region known for peanut farming. The negotiations were described as tense and delicate.

The bunker is down a red dirt road on a hill filled with pine trees. The police have turned a church next door into a command center. Across a nearby highway, television news crews have set up camp and many residents have driven to the area to take photographs and hold prayer vigils.

James McNealy, a painter, drove from a nearby town, saying that he wanted to pray for the child.  “I have four children,” he said. “My heart goes out to that boy. I can’t imagine what he and his parents are going through.”

The boy is reportedly doing well, said an Alabama state senator, Harri Anne Smith, in a television interview early Thursday. She and a state representative, Steve Clouse, have met with the boy’s mother, who wanted to ensure that medication he is said to take was delivered to the bunker, along with coloring books and food.

Still, Mr. Clouse said, the family is “just holding on by a thread.”

He and law enforcement officials have said there appears to be no connection between the boy and Mr. Dykes.

“I think it’s just a random kidnapping here,” he said.

In interviews on local television stations, neighbors said they had had altercations with Mr. Dykes over people and dogs trespassing on his property and that he had spent the past few years digging and moving cinder blocks to construct the bunker, which they said was about 4 feet wide, 6 feet long and perhaps 8 feet high.

The bunker has power, a television and appears to be well stocked, law enforcement officials have said.

The authorities have communicated with Mr. Dykes through a PVC pipe that extends from the bunker.

Tim Byrd, chief investigator with the Dale County Sheriff’s Office, told the Southern Poverty Law Center’s Hatewatch blog that Mr. Dykes was a Vietnam veteran suffering from post-traumatic stress who “did not trust the government.”

According to court records, Mr. Dykes had been scheduled to appear in court on Wednesday to face charges of menacing. He is accused of shooting at neighbors in an altercation involving a neighbor driving on his property.

“He has been for a long time a source of concern,” Rhonda Wilber, a neighbor, told local television reporters. “He has been like a time bomb waiting to go off.”

source; nytimes.com
Robbie Brown contributed reporting from Midland City, Ala., and Kim Severson from Atlanta.


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