The hostage standoff in Midland City continues, as the town prepares to bury the school bus driver killed by the suspected gunman.
As an Alabama stand-off and hostage drama enters a sixth day, more details have emerged about the suspect at the centre, with neighbours and officials painting a picture of an isolated man with few friends and no close family.
Authorities say Jim Lee Dykes, 65 – a decorated veteran of the Vietnam War known as Jimmy to neighbours – gunned down a school bus driver and then abducted a five-year-old boy from the bus, taking him to an underground bunker on his rural property.
He doesn’t like law enforcement or the government telling him what to do. He’s just a loner.The driver, 66-year-old Charles Poland, was being buried on Monday (AEDT).
Menacing … Ronda Wilbur, a neighbour of Jimmy Lee Dykes, points as she speaks with the media about encounters she’s had with him at the scene of the shooting and hostage taking in Midland City, Alabama. Photo: Reuters
Dykes, described as a loner who railed against the government, lives up a dirt road north of Dothan in the south-east corner of the state. His home is just off the main road north to the state capital of Montgomery, about 130km away.
The FBI said in a statement that authorities continue to have an open line of communication with Dykes and they planned to deliver to the bunker additional comfort items such as food, toys and medicine. They also said Dykes was making the child as comfortable as possible.
Republican Rep. Steve Clouse, who represents the Midland City area, said he visited the boy’s mother on Thursday and she was “hanging on by a thread.”
“Everybody is praying with her for the boy,” he said.
Clouse said the mother told him that the boy has Asperger’s syndrome, an autism-like disorder, as well as attention deficit hyperactivity disorder, or ADHD.
Along the red dirt road … A Google satellite image of Dykes’ property, where a boy is being held in an underground bunker. Photo: CNN screengrab
Government records and interviews with neighbours indicate that Dykes grew up in the Dothan area and joined the navy, serving on active duty from 1964 to 1969. His record shows several awards, including the Vietnam Service Medal and the Good Conduct Medal. During his service, Dykes was trained in aviation maintenance.
Later, Dykes lived in Florida, where he worked as a surveyor and a long-haul truck driver although it’s unclear for how long.
He had some scrapes with the law there, including a 1995 arrest for improper exhibition of a weapon. The misdemeanour was dismissed. He also was arrested for marijuana possession in 2000.
Tense … Authorities, including the FBI, wait at the scene. Photo: AP
He returned to Alabama about two years ago, moving onto the rural tract about 90 metres from his nearest neighbours, Michael Creel and his father, Greg.
Dykes was known around the neighbourhood as a menacing figure who neighbours said 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.
Jim Lee Dykes, 65. Photo: Reuters
Another neighbour, Jimmy Davis Jnr, told CNN he had been shown around the underground bunker by Dykes himself about nine months ago.
”He told me it was a storm shelter,” Mr Davis Jnr said.
“It actually had cinder blocks going down as steps and it was covered up with two sheets of plywood nailed together with hinges and stuff as a door to open to it.”
Mr Davis Jnr said Dykes had also buried a PVC pipe in the ground leading to the bunker, so he could hear cars and people approaching from above.
The shelter was about a metre underground and negotiators were speaking to Dykes through the pipe, James Arrington, police chief of the neighboring town of Pinckard said.
“He will have to give up sooner or later because (authorities) are not leaving,” Arrington said. “It’s pretty small, but he’s been known to stay in there eight days.
Chief Arrington confirmed that Dykes held anti-government views, as described by multiple neighbours: “He’s against the government – starting with Obama on down.”
“He doesn’t like law enforcement or the government telling him what to do,” he said. “He’s just a loner.”
AP, with theage.com.au