Search for bombs resumes at Alabama hostage site after two found

Reuters News
Posted: Feb 06, 2013 9:27 AM
Search for bombs resumes at Alabama hostage site after two found

By Sharon Reich

MIDLAND CITY, Alabama (Reuters) - Bomb technicians searched for explosive devices Wednesday after two were found at the rural Alabama property where a man, who had held a young boy hostage in an underground bunker for nearly a week, was killed in a firefight with authorities Monday.

Investigators dismantled two explosive devices that were found Tuesday at the scene near Midland City in southeast Alabama, the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) said.

One device was inside the bunker where Jimmy Lee Dykes, 65, had holed up for nearly a week with a 5-year-old boy he had randomly snatched off a school bus after killing the driver. The second device was in a plastic pipe Dykes had asked negotiators to use to communicate with him during the standoff.

No additional devices were spotted during the sweep that resumed on Wednesday, FBI agents said.

FBI agents stormed the homemade bunker and shot and killed Dykes on Monday after surveillance equipment showed him wielding a gun and looking agitated, law enforcement sources said. The boy was rescued unharmed.

A preliminary investigation indicated Dykes "engaged in a firefight" with SWAT team members who entered the bunker, the FBI said in a statement late Tuesday.

Dykes appeared to have reinforced the bunker to thwart entry attempts by law enforcement, agents said, without revealing further details.

The drama came against a backdrop of a heated debate about gun violence and school safety across the United States, following the shooting deaths of 20 children and six adults in December by a gunman who had forced his way into a Connecticut elementary school.

The rescued Alabama boy, identified only as Ethan, turned 6 on Wednesday. Relieved residents posted signs around his hometown with messages such as "Happy Birthday Ethan" and "Welcome Home."

An online effort to send Ethan and his family to Disney World in Florida was close to reaching its $7,000 fundraising goal.

"For the first time in almost a week, I woke up this morning to the most beautiful sight ... my sweet boy," the child's mother said on Tuesday in her first public statement about the ordeal. "I can't describe how incredible it is to hold him again."

"My family and I ask that you respect our privacy and give us a little time - time to heal, time to put this nightmare behind us, time to move forward," said the mother, who was not named.

Dykes, a retired trucker who served in the Navy during the Vietnam War era, had been due to appear in court last week to face a menacing charge involving one of his neighbors.

On the eve of his trial before a judge, Dykes boarded a school bus carrying more than 20 children home and demanded that the driver let a student off the bus, according to authorities.

When the driver, Charles Albert Poland, 66, refused, Dykes shot him four times with a 9 mm handgun, killing Poland, and fled with Ethan, officials said.

(Additional reporting by Tom Brown; Additional reporting and writing by Colleen Jenkins; Editing by Bernadette Baum)