Gunman in standoff called anti-government loner
Midland City, Ala. • As an Alabama standoff and hostage drama marked a sixth day Sunday, more details emerged about the suspect who neighbors and officials describe as an isolated man estranged from his family.
Authorities say Jim Lee Dykes, 65 a decorated veteran of the Vietnam War known as Jimmy to neighbors gunned down a school bus driver and abducted a 5-year-old boy from the bus, taking him to an underground bunker on his rural property. The driver, 66-year-old Charles Albert Poland Jr., was buried Sunday.
Dykes, described as a loner who railed against the government, lives up a dirt road outside this hamlet in the southeastern corner of the state.
The FBI said in a statement Sunday that authorities continue to have an open line of communication with Dykes. The little boy requested Cheez-Its and red Hot Wheels cars, and both were delivered to the bunker, FBI spokesman Jason Pack told The Associated Press. Authorities had said they also were delivering medicine and other comfort items, and that Dykes was making the child as comfortable as possible.
In the nearby community of Ozark on Sunday, more than 500 people filed into the Civic Center to pay a final tribute to Poland.
Poland is now "an angel who is watching over" the little boy, said Dale County School Superintendent Donny Bynum, who read letters written by three students who had ridden on Poland's bus. "You didn't deserve to die but you died knowing you kept everyone safe," one child wrote.
Outside the funeral, school buses from several counties lined the funeral procession route. The buses had black ribbons tied to their side mirrors.
Mel Adams, a Midland City Council member, said he has known Dykes since they were ages 3 and 4. He said Dykes has a sister and a brother, but that he is estranged from his family. Adams said he didn't know what caused the falling-out, but that he knew Dykes "had told part of his family to go to hell."
Dykes' record shows several awards, including the Vietnam Service Medal and the Good Conduct Medal.
Neighbors described Dykes as a man who once beat a dog to death with a lead pipe, threatened to shoot children for setting foot on his property and patrolled his yard at night with a flashlight and a firearm. Michael Creel said Dykes had an adult daughter, but the two lost touch years ago.
His property has a white trailer and a steel shipping container. Next to the container is the underground bunker where authorities say Dykes is holed up with the 5-year-old. Neighbors say the bunker has a pipe so Dykes could hear people coming near his driveway. Authorities have been using the ventilation pipe to communicate with him.
Michael Creel said Dykes kept to himself and listened to a lot of conservative talk radio.
James Arrington, police chief of the neighboring town of Pinckard, put it differently.
"He's against the government, starting with Obama on down," he said.