US captor rigged bunker, waged firefight

2013-02-06 16:24
Jimmy Lee Dykes. (Alabama Department of Public Safety/ AFP)

Jimmy Lee Dykes. (Alabama Department of Public Safety/ AFP)

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Midland City — As FBI and police negotiators sought for days to coax an Alabama man into freeing a kindergartner held hostage an underground bunker, the captor was making plans of his own, authorities say.

He rigged the bunker with explosives, tried to reinforce it against any raid, and when Swat agents stormed the shelter on Monday to rescue the boy, Jimmy Lee Dykes engaged in a firefight that left the captor dead, the FBI and officials said.

After the nearly weeklong hostage ordeal, relatives say the boy, who turns 6 years old on Wednesday, is back at home and appears to be doing well. He was seized off a crowded school bus on 29 January after authorities say the gunman shot the driver dead and took the boy to the bunker.

While the FBI has said little about how it monitored Dykes' behaviour and mood in the days leading up to the rescue, the latest revelations suggest authorities were dealing with an abductor fully prepared for more violence even as he allowed police to send food, medicine and toys into the bunker for the boy.

An FBI statement late on Tuesday said Dyke, aged 65, had planted an explosive device in a ventilation pipe he'd told negotiators to use to communicate with him on his property in the rural Alabama community of Midland City. The suspect also placed another explosive device inside the bunker, the FBI added.

Dykes appears to have "reinforced the bunker against any attempted entry by law enforcement", FBI special agent Jason Pack said in the statement providing significant new details about how it all ended.

Devices 'disrupted'

When Swat agents stormed the bunker, Dykes "engaged in a firefight with the Swat agents", Pack added.

Officers killed Dykes, said an official in Midland City, speaking on condition of anonymity because the official wasn't authorised to discuss a pending law enforcement investigation.

The two devices were "disrupted", Pack said, but did not say whether they were detonated or disarmed.

For days, officers communicated with Dykes through a plastic pipe that rose up from the bunker, which was similar to a tornado shelter and apparently had running water, heat and cable television.

On Monday, authorities said, Dykes had a gun and appeared increasingly agitated, and negotiations were deteriorating. The Midland City official said law enforcement agents had been observing Dykes with some sort of camera, which is how they saw that he had a gun.

Dale County Coroner Woodrow Hilboldt said on Tuesday that he had not been able to confirm exactly how Dykes died because the man's body had remained in the bunker. An autopsy was to be conducted once the body was removed.

Unstable menace

The boy, who has Asperger's syndrome and attention deficit hyperactivity disorder, was said to be acting like a normal kid after his rescue. Officials said there was no indication that Dykes had harmed the boy.

"We know he's OK physically, but we don't know how he is mentally," Betty Jean Ransbottom, the boy's grandmother, said on Tuesday.

Neighbours had described Dykes as an unstable menace who beat a dog to death and threatened to shoot trespassers while patrolling his property armed.

Children and teachers were trying to get back to normal, though some children who were on the bus where Dykes killed the driver on 29 January have not yet returned to school, said Donny Bynum, superintendent of Midland City schools. Counsellors and clergy are at the school to help any distraught students.


- AP
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