On the seventh day of a hostage situation in Midland City, Alabama, the nightmare is over. The 5-year-old boy being held in an underground bunker was freed just after three o’clock this afternoon, law enforcement announced, while 65-year-old Jimmy Lee Dykes, his captor, was killed. According to a brief statement by authorities, negotiations deteriorated over the last 24 hours and “Dykes was observed holding a gun,” prompting the FBI to move in and recover the child. A local ABC affiliate reported two “loud bangs” near the bunker.
Dykes shot and killed a school bus driver last week before grabbing the child, identified only as Ethan, and moving him to a homemade bomb shelter. There, the retired trucker and Vietnam veteran negotiated with hostage rescue teams through a four-inch-wide PVC pipe. “He feels like he has a story that’s important to him,” said Sheriff Wally Olson during the standoff. “Although it’s very complex, we’re trying to make a safe environment.”
Ethan, who has Asperger’s syndrome and ADHD, was given medication, snacks, and a red Hot Wheels car by negotiators throughout the crisis, and Dykes was described as “[making] the environment as comfortable as possible for the child.” Following the rescue, law enforcement said Ethan “appears physically unharmed and is being treated at a local hospital.” He’ll turn 6 on Wednesday, with his family.