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Saturday, August 13, 2022

The Jimmy Lee Dykes Hostage Case

      In 2011, shortly after moving into his rural house in Midland City, Alabama, a town of 2,300 not far from Dothan in the south east corner of the state, 65-year-old Jimmy Lee Dykes began building his underground storm shelter. The retired truck driver and Navy veteran worked on the project every day between two and three in the morning for eighteen months. He stocked his underground sanctuary with food, wired it for electricity and moved in a TV set and other amenities.

     People who live near Mr. Dykes considered him a neighbor from hell. Paranoid, combative and violent, Dykes, pursuant to a variety of neighborhood disputes and feuds, had threatened to shoot people. He patrolled his property at night with a flashlight and a shotgun and had fired two shots at a pickup truck occupied by two people who reside in the area. As a result of that incident Mr. Dykes had a court appearance in nearby Ozark, Alabama where he faced a charge of menacing. If convicted of the misdemeanor he faced up to six months in jail.

     On Tuesday January 29, 2013, the day before his court appearance, Jimmy Lee Dykes became more than just an armed eccentric who hated people. At 3:40 in the afternoon he boarded a school bus near his house carrying twenty-two elementary school children. He pulled out a handgun and ordered the children out of the vehicle and grabbed a 6-year-old boy who was so frightened he fainted. When the bus driver, 66-year-old Charles Poland, Jr. tried to save the child  Dykes shot him four times. (Mr. Poland later died from his wounds.)

     From the hijacked bus Jimmy Lee Dykes took the boy to his underground bunker which became the site of an ongoing hostage standoff. A short time later the underground fort was surrounded by local, county and state police officers as well as a SWAT team and paramedic crews. FBI hostage negotiators also responded to the scene. Officers blocked-off several roads in the area.

     The abducted boy's parents were doubly concerned because the child required medication that had to be taken daily. At one point officers dropped the boy's medication into the bunker through a PVC pipe. Mr. Dykes assured the hostage negotiators that the boy was not injured.

     Thirty-six hours into the standoff a hostage negotiator said, "Give up. You need to exit the shelter, put down any weapons you might have and approach the police. This isn't going to end itself. You need to come out and talk to us. We are not going away."

     On February 4, 2013 at three in the afternoon FBI agents stormed the bunker, killed the hostage taker and rescued the boy. 

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