Small Alabama town: Relief that child hostage is safe

By Tamara Lush

Associated Press

Published: Tuesday, Feb. 5 2013 6:52 a.m. MST

While a town anxiously waited for days, authorities had been speaking with Dykes though a plastic pipe that went into the bunker. It was about 4 feet underground, with about 50 square feet of floor space, built like the tornado shelters common in this area of the South.

Authorities sent food, medicine and other items into the bunker, which apparently had running water, heat and cable television but no toilet.

The standoff unfolded just a few hundred yards from U.S. 231, a busy four-lane highway where both sides of the road were lined with law enforcement vehicles from local, state and federal authorities.

When it was over, one acquaintance, Roger Arnold, commented: "He always said he'd never be taken alive. I knew he'd never come out of there."

FBI bomb technicians later scoured the property for any explosive devices, FBI spokesman Jason Pack said. He added they would be conducting an even more exhaustive search of the site once it was deemed safe.

Asked about officials who said Dykes had been killed by law enforcement officers, Pack responded in an email early Tuesday: "The facts surrounding the incident will be established by a shooting review team from Washington, D.C., in the coming days."

At the request of law enforcement authorities, Secretary of Defense Leon Panetta had approved the provision of certain equipment that could be employed to assist in the hostage situation, according to a U.S. official who requested anonymity to discuss a pending law enforcement matter. It is not clear whether the equipment was actually used.

Neighbors described Dykes as a nuisance 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.

Government records and interviews with neighbors indicate that Dykes joined the Navy in Midland City and served 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.

He had some scrapes with the law in Florida, including a 1995 arrest for improper exhibition of a weapon. The misdemeanor was dismissed. He also was arrested for marijuana possession in 2000.

He returned to Alabama about two years ago, moving onto the rural tract about 100 yards from his nearest neighbors.

Ronda Wilbur, a neighbor of Dykes who said the man beat her dog to death last year with a pipe, said she was relieved to be done with the stress of knowing Dykes was patrolling his yard and willing to shoot at anyone or anything he suspected of trespassing.

"The nightmare is over. It's been a long couple of years of having constant stress," she said.

On Sunday, more than 500 people attended a memorial service for bus driver Charles Albert Poland Jr., who was hailed as a hero for protecting nearly two dozen other children on the bus before he was gunned down and the boy grabbed.

"This man was a true hero who was willing to give up his life so others might live," Gov. Robert Bentley said in a news release after learning of the boy's rescue.

Associated Press writers Jay Reeves in Midland City and Lolita Baldor in Washington contributed to this report.

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