Hostage drama stretches into third day after Alabama school bus shooting

Law enforcement officials walk near the scene of a shooting and hostage taking in Midland City, Alabama.

A gunman suspected of fatally shooting an Alabama school bus driver before holing up in an underground bunker with a young child is a Vietnam veteran with anti-government views, authorities and an organization that tracks hate groups said.

Law enforcement officials from multiple agencies were bivouacked near the bunker in Midland City but offered few details about a standoff with the shooter that stretched into its second day on Wednesday.

Authorities said driver Charles Albert Poland Jr., 66, was killed after the gunman boarded a bus ferrying more than 20 children home from school on Tuesday.

The suspect demanded the driver let a student off the bus, Alabama media reported. When Poland refused, the man boarded the bus and shot the driver before taking a 6-year-old kindergarten student and fleeing the scene.

The shooting and subsequent hostage drama came as a national debate rages over gun violence, especially in schools, after a gunman shot dead 20 students and six staff members at a Connecticut elementary school last month.

In Alabama on Wednesday night, the suspected gunman remained holed up with the boy in the underground bunker on his property down a dirt road. Any efforts to negotiate with the man, or to stage a hostage rescue operation, were shrouded in secrecy with authorities declining to comment.

Television images showed security force officers, clad in camouflage uniforms and brandishing assault rifles, patrolling the area.

An Alabama legislator, Representative Steve Clouse, told reporters the hostage suffered from Asperger’s Syndrome and ADHD but had apparently been able to receive his medication while held captive. The Dale County Sheriff’s Department said the child was not believed to have been harmed.

Schools in the area of the Alabama shooting were closed on Wednesday and will remain shuttered for the rest of the week.

DRIVER HAILED AS HERO

Dale County Superintendent Donny Bynum lauded Poland as “a hero … who gave his life to protect 21 students who are now home safely with their families.”

The superintendent’s assistant said the young boy still being held by the gunman appeared to have been chosen at random.

“Emotions are high, and it’s a struggle for us all to make sense of something so senseless, but let us keep this young student, his family and Mr. Poland’s family in our thoughts and prayers,” Bynum said in a statement.

The Southern Poverty Law Center reported on its Hatewatch blog that a chief investigator with the Dale County Sheriff’s Office identified the gunman as 65-year-old Jimmy Lee Dykes, although Reuters could not independently verify the gunman’s identity.

Investigator Tim Byrd said Dykes’ friends and neighbors described him as a “survivalist” who did not trust the government, according to the law center blog.

“He was standoffish, didn’t socialize or have any contact with anybody,” Byrd told Hatewatch.

Dykes had not been on the law center’s radar before the shooting and standoff, and there was nothing to suggest he was a member of any hate group, said senior fellow Mark Potok.

“What it looks like is that he’s some kind of anti-government radical and survivalist,” Potok told Reuters. “And exactly what that means, we don’t know.”

Court records show Dykes had been due to appear for a bench trial on Wednesday following his arrest last month on a menacing charge.

James Edward Davis, a neighbor of Dykes, told CNN the arrest stemmed from an incident on December 10 when Dykes pulled a gun on him and his young daughter. According to Davis, Dykes was upset because he believed Davis had driven onto his property. Dykes fired two gunshots as Davis sped off in his car, he said.

“This man has been an accident waiting to happen. He’s been a ticking time bomb,” Ronda Wilbur, another neighbor of Dykes, told CNN, complaining he had killed her family dog by beating it with a lead pipe and then bragged about it to her husband.

“He got increasingly more bizarre. He spent most of the last two years moving concrete blocks around and digging, constantly digging and moving dirt,” she said of Dykes.

Wilbur and other neighbors said Dykes had moved into the area about two years ago and kept mostly to himself.



News
Entertainment
Sports
Lifestyle
National

California passes 'yes-means-yes' campus sexual assault bill

Californian lawmakers passed a law on Thursday requiring universities to adopt "affirmative consent" language in their definitions of consensual sex, part of a nationwide drive to curb sexual assault on…

National

Syrian refugees top 3 million, half of all…

By Stephanie NebehayGENEVA (Reuters) - Three million Syrian refugees will have registered in neighboring countries as of Friday, but many remain trapped by the advance…

International

North Korean leader's money manager defects in Russia:…

A senior North Korean banking official who managed money for leader Kim Jong Un has defected in Russia and was seeking asylum in a third country, a South Korean newspaper…

Local

MAP: New York City Street Closures August 29,…

The Department of Transportation and NYPD said there may be residual delays near all of the street closures on August 29, 31 and 31. Several streets and avenues will be…

Going Out

'Friends' coffeehouse Central Perk coming to NYC —…

"Friends" is coming back for a one-off special: "The One with the Free Coffee." Warner Bros. is bringing a pop-up replica of Central Perk, the…

Movies

Interview: 'As Above, So Below' directors: 5 ways…

The fraternal directors of the found footage horror "As Above, So Below" dish on the best ways to frighten the bejesus out of audiences.

Movies

Criterion's new Jacques Demy box mixes the light…

Jacques Demy, the most effervescent of French New Wave filmmakers, gets a Criterion box all to himself, with classics like "The Umbrellas of Cherbourg."

Entertainment

Comedian Joan Rivers, 81, rushed to New York…

NEW YORK (Reuters) - Acerbic comedian and fashion critic Joan Rivers was rushed to Mount Sinai Hospital in New York on Thursday after she reportedly…

NFL

3 things we learned in the Giants preseason…

The final score didn’t matter — a 16-13 win by the Giants — but it would’ve been nice to finally see Big Blue’s new-look offense get on track.

NFL

NFL Power Rankings: Seahawks, Broncos, Patriots, 49ers start…

NFL Power Rankings: Seahawks, Broncos, Patriots start at top

U.S. Soccer

5 facts about new England captain Wayne Rooney

Manchester United striker Wayne Rooney was named as the new England captain by coach Roy Hodgson on Thursday.

NFL

Jets vs. Eagles: 3 things to watch

A win on Thursday night at the Eagles would give the Jets a 3-1 record and just their second winning preseason under head coach Rex Ryan.

Style

Trend: White hot on the 2014 Emmy's red…

White was one of the big trends on the Emmy's red carpet.

Food

Recipe: Samuel Adams beer-marinated grilled shrimp

Summer calls for two things: a cold beer and light food. Sam Adams' Latitude 48 IPA fairly bursts with citrus notes, making it an ideal marinade…

Wellbeing

4 healthy ingredient swaps to make your meals…

When it comes to eating well, everyone knows they could be doing better. But cooking in an apartment on a busy schedule is a recipe…

Wellbeing

Heart trumps brain when it comes to movies…

When you need a good cry, do you reach for the movie that’s “based on a true story”? Science says you’re giving your brain far…