This happened in Midland City, Alabama. It turned out to be one of the most difficult and dangerous hostage cases ever handled by the Federal Bureau of Investigation.
It was January 29, 2013. Jimmy Lee Dykes waved down a school bus that was dropping off kids after school. The bus driver, 66 year old Charles Poland, Jr,, who knew Dykes, stopped the bus. Dykes boarded with an outrageous request. He wanted to take two boys’ hostage. Dykes had a gun, but the driver blocked the bus aisle to protect the kids on the bus. Dykes shot and killed the driver before kidnapping a five-year-old boy with special needs. His name was Ethan, and he sat in the seat closest to the door.
Dykes was a Vietnam War Veteran. He had lost touch with an ex-wife and two daughters. His older girl recalled his fondness of firearms and a hatred for authorities. Mr. Dykes had worked as a land surveyor and a truck driver. He had been fired from his last job after having a dispute with his boss. A neighbor referred to him as “a time bomb waiting to go off.””
Dykes carried Ethan to a six-foot by eight-foot underground bunker that was located on his property. The bunker was rigged with explosives and had only a narrow pipe for ventilation. Dykes called 911 and told the police he had taken a hostage. His ultimate goal? To swap Ethan for a female TV reporter who would join him in the bunker and broadcast his manifesto as he spoke. Once he delivered the message, he would put a plastic bag over his head and fill it with helium. The woman would hold his hand while he suffocated.
Dykes told the police to use the ventilation pipe to relay communications with him. Early on, they learned the pipe had been rigged with explosives and convinced Dykes to accept a throw phone. Hostage negotiators believed Dykes had explosives inside the bunker and tried to keep tensions low as they attempted to negotiate Ethan’s release. In the meantime, they convinced Dykes to allow them to deliver Ethan’s daily medicine, coloring books, food and toys that they would leave outside the bunker. After they moved away, Dykes would open the trap door and cautiously accept the supplies.
Over six days, Dykes became increasingly agitated and authorities believed he was going to kill Ethan. Law enforcement officials were faced with a serious, if not deadly decision.
Let's go Behind the Crime Scene to find out how Michael Osborn, retired FBI Assistant Special Agent in Charge, responded to this harrowing event.