The five-year-old boy held hostage in a week-long standoff in Alabama is in good spirits and apparently unharmed after being reunited with his family at a hospital, according to his family and law enforcement officials.
The boy, identified only as Ethan, was rescued by the FBI Monday afternoon after they rushed the underground bunker where suspect Jimmy Lee Dykes (65) was holding him. Dykes was killed in the raid and the boy was taken away from the bunker in an ambulance. Officials have not yet provided any further details on the raid.
“I’ve been to the hospital,” said FBI Special Agent Steve Richardson. “I visited Ethan. He is doing fine. He’s laughing, joking, playing, eating, the things that you would expect a normal five-to six-year-old young man to do. He’s very brave, he’s very lucky, and the success story is that he’s out safe and doing great.”
Ethan is expected to be released from the hospital later today and head home where he will be greeted by birthday cards from his friends at school. Ethan will celebrate his 6th birthday on Wednesday.
Officials were able to insert a high-tech camera into the six-by-eight-foot bunker to monitor Dykes’ movements, and they became increasingly concerned that he might act out, said a law enforcement source. FBI special agents were positioned near the entrance of the bunker and used an explosive charge to gain access and neutralise Dykes.
“Within the past 24 hours, negotiations deteriorated and Dykes was observed holding a gun,” the FBI’s Richardson said. “At this point, the FBI agents, fearing the child was in imminent danger, entered the bunker and rescued the child.”
Richardson said it “got tough to negotiate and communicate” with Dykes, but declined to give any specifics. Dykes allegedly shot and killed a school bus driver, Albert Poland Jr (66), last Tuesday and threatened to kill all the children on the bus before taking the boy, one of the students on the bus.
“He said he was going to kill us, going to kill us all,” Tarrica Singletary, a 14-year-old said. Dykes had been holed up in his underground bunker with the abducted boy for a week as police tried to negotiate with him through the PVC pipe.
Dykes lived in Florida until two years ago and has an adult daughter, but the two lost touch years ago. When he returned to Alabama, neighbours say he once beat a dog with a lead pipe and had threatened to shoot children who set foot on his property.
A funeral was held for Poland on Sunday, and he was hailed as a hero for helping the other children on the bus escape. “He gave the ultimate sacrifice for them,” Donny Bynum, superintendent of Dale County schools, said. “He was their hero. And now Poland is an angel. He’s watching over (the abducted boy), his family, and those that are working tirelessly to bring one of Poland’s children home.”
Bynum also read letters from some of the schoolchildren, who also called Poland a hero.