Sixty-five-year-old former trucker Jimmy Lee Dykes continues to hold hostage a five-year-old boy he allegedly kidnapped from an Alabama school bus after killing its driver.
Dykes and the child have been holed up in a small underground bunker since Tuesday, where he has been communicating with local, state, and federal law enforcement through a ventilation pipe, according to WSFA.
The hostage standoff began when Dykes boarded a school bus near his home in Midland City, Ala.—a small town in the southeast corner of the state—around Tuesday afternoon. Dykes demanded two children but was blocked by the bus's driver, Charles Albert Poland. Police believe Dykes then shot the 66-year-old Poland four times, killing him.
Dale County Sheriff Wally Olson said Thursday night that the boy, whose name is Ethan, has not been hurt.
"I could tell you that negotiators continue to communicate with the suspect and that there's no reason to believe the child has been harmed," Olson said.
A state legislator representing Midland City, Rep. Steve Clouse, told the Associated Press that Ethan's mother informed him that the child has Asperger's syndrome, a form of high-functioning autism, as well as attention deficit hyperactivity disorder, or ADHD.
Police have evacuated the bus as well as the surrounding area, where helicopters, hostage negotiators, bomb squad vehicles, and a host of other law enforcement personnel are standing by.
Local police say Dykes, a Vietnam veteran and survivalist, told negotiators he has stayed in the bunker for long periods of time in the past. He is believed to have a space heater, a television, as well as a few weeks worth rations in the bunker, which is four feet below ground.
Descriptions from neighbors and Dykes' own criminal record paint him as anti-government and fiercely territorial of his property. He was scheduled to appear in court Wednesday for allegations that he shot at neighbor Claudia Davis over damage Dykes claimed her pickup truck did to a makeshift speed bump on the dirt road near where he lived.
Davis' son, James Davis Jr., who was present for the speed bump incident, told the Associated Press he believed the hostage situation was related to Wednesday's scheduled court appearance.
"I believe he thought I was going to be in court and he was going to get more charges than the menacing, which he deserved, and he had a bunch of stuff to hide and that's why he did it," Davis told the AP.
Other neighbors claim Dykes in the past had threatened to shoot children who followed dogs onto his property and that he beat one neighbor's dog with a lead pipe for similar trespassing.
Poland, the bus driver, often used a portion of Dykes' driveway to turn the bus around, according to WSFA. The local station reports that Dykes' neighbor Kelly Miller saw Dykes enter the school bus and speak with Poland on Monday, the day before the incident. The following morning Miller says Poland offered Dykes a gift of eggs and marmalade as thanks for using the driveway, which Dykes turned down.