An Alabama community is on edge today, praying for a 5-year-old boy being held hostage by a retired man who police say abducted him at gunpoint Tuesday afternoon.
Nearly 40 hours have slowly passed since school bus driver Charles Albert Poland Jr., 66, heroically tried to prevent the kidnapping, but was shot to death by suspect Jimmy Lee Dykes, a former truck driver, police said.
Dykes boarded the bus Tuesday and said he wanted two boys, 6 to 8 years old. As the children piled to the back of the bus, Dykes, 65, allegedly shot Poland four times, then grabbed the child at random and fled, The Associated Press reported.
The primary concern in the community near Midland City, Ala., is now for the boy’s safety. Dale County police have not identified the child.
“I believe in prayer, so I just pray that we can resolve this peacefully,” Dale County sheriff Wally Olson said.
The boy is being held in a bunker about 8 feet below ground, where police say Dykes likely has enough food and supplies to remain underground for weeks. Dykes has been communicating with police through a pipe extending from the bunker to the surface.
It is unclear whether he has made any demands from the bunker-style shelter on his property.
The young hostage is a child with autism. Dykes has allowed the boy to watch television, and have some medication, police said
Multiple agencies have responded to the hostage situation, Dale County Sheriff Wally Olson said. The FBI has assumed the lead in the investigation, and SWAT teams were surrounding the bunker.
“A lot of law enforcement agencies here doing everything they possibly can to get this job done,” Olson said.
Former FBI lead hostage negotiator Chris Voss said that authorities must proceed with caution.
“You make contact as quickly as you can, but also as gently as you can,” he said. “You don’t try to be assertive; you don’t try to be aggressive.”
Voss said patience is important in delicate situations such as this.
“The more patient approach they take, the less likely they are to make mistakes,” he said.
“They need to move slowly to get it right, to communicate properly and slowly and gently unravel this.”