FBI tapes detail drama of Alabama bunker hostage saga

Reuters News
Posted: Jun 01, 2013 3:06 PM

By Chris Michaud

(Reuters) - A teen on the school bus boarded by a gunman who snatched an Alabama boy and then held him in an underground bunker until he was rescued six days later called 911 as the abduction unfolded, FBI tapes show.

Details of the hostage drama were unveiled in tapes and photographs released by the FBI late on Friday.

As gun-toting Jimmy Lee Dykes, 65, burst onto a school bus in southeast Alabama on January 29 and demanded bus driver Charles Poland turn over children, a 15-year-old boy quickly dialed 911 from his cell phone.

"What's going on?" a 911 operator is heard asking the teen.

"He's asking for kids," the teenager replied, a demand the operator repeated incredulously in audio tapes of the incident. When Poland, 66, refused to comply, Dykes shot him dead.

The kidnapper then directed kindergartner Ethan Gilman out of his seat directly behind Poland, who had tried to shield the 5-year-old who suffers from bipolar disorder, attention deficit-hyperactivity disorder and Asperger's syndrome.

"The bus driver's dead," the teenager is heard telling the operator, adding, "He took a kid, he took a kid."

The teen stayed on the line with the 911 operator and provided a description of Dykes.

Throughout the call the dispatcher reassured the teen, telling him he was "very brave, you're doing good" and to "Hang in there ... you're doing so good."

Dykes fled with Ethan to a homemade bunker at his home near Midland City in southeast Alabama.

Pictures of the bunker released by the FBI showed a space measuring about 6 feet by 8 feet, which was 12 feet underground, equipped with electricity and a bunk bed made up with covers and pillows.

Dykes was shot and killed by law enforcement agents on February 4 during a raid on the bunker, which was later found to contain bombs.

In the audio tapes he lashed out at negotiators in an angry, profanity-laced anti-government rant, blasting the "corrupt system" and implying a deadline was looming before violence might end the episode.

FBI agents told ABC News in a report aired on Friday that Dykes had a chilling plan for the boy.

"Dykes relayed to the negotiators 'if anything happens to me, I have told Ethan to pull the trigger,'" or detonate one of the explosive devices later found in the bunker, the FBI's on-scene commander said.

Dykes, a retired trucker who served in the Navy during the Vietnam War era, was said to have anti-government views and had been due to appear in court to face a menacing charge involving one of his neighbors.

(Editing by Barbara Goldberg and Vicki Allen)