2013 Alabama bunker hostage crisis

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2013 Alabama bunker hostage crisis
Dale County Alabama Incorporated and Unincorporated areas Midland City Highlighted.svg
Location of Midland City in Dale County within the U.S. state of Alabama
LocationMidland City, Alabama, U.S.
DateJanuary 29, 2013 – February 4, 2013
c. 3:30 p.m.[1] – 3:12 p.m. (CST)
TargetTwo random children aboard a school bus
Attack type
Bus hijacking, hostage crisis, murder
WeaponsRuger Handgun[2]
Deaths2 (including the perpetrator)
VictimCharles Albert Poland, Jr. (killed on January 29)
PerpetratorJimmy Lee Dykes

On January 29, 2013, a hostage crisis, lasting almost seven days, began in the Wiregrass Region near U.S. Highway 231 in Midland City, Alabama. Jimmy Lee Dykes, a 65-year-old Vietnam War-era veteran, boarded a Dale County school bus, killed the driver, and took a five-year-old boy hostage. On the afternoon of February 4, law enforcement agents entered the bunker, killed Dykes, and rescued the child.[3]


Bus driver slaying[edit]

Just after 3:30 p.m.,[1] Dykes boarded a Dale County school bus that was stopped in Midland City and told the driver that he wanted to take two children, six and eight years old, both boys,[4] from the bus. The school bus driver, 66-year-old Charles Albert Poland, Jr., refused to let him take the children and challenged Dykes to shoot him.[4] He blocked access to the aisle of the bus while Dykes continued to argue with him.

Dykes fired five shots,[4] killing Poland, and left the bus taking Ethan Gilman, a five-year-old student from Midland City Elementary School, with him. After he had left the bus with Gilman, the students on the bus left through the front door, having to pass by the body of Poland, whom many of them had known for years.[5] Authorities indicated that there was no pre-existing relationship between Dykes and the hostage.[6] Fifteen-year-old Tre' Watts, who was present on the bus, was the first person to call 911; he began the call when Dykes boarded the bus.[4]

Child abduction[edit]

After the shooting, Dykes took Gilman to a 6-foot by 8-foot underground bunker on his property. The bunker contained homemade bombs[7] and was equipped with a PVC ventilation pipe. Hostage negotiators cooperated with Dykes in an attempt to obtain Gilman's release and to bring the situation to a favorable conclusion.[5]


The PVC pipe used by Dykes for communication.

Soon after the shooting and abduction, Dykes called 911 and gave instructions on how to communicate with him. FBI hostage negotiators arrived at the bunker and began communicating with Dykes through the ventilation pipe, as he instructed.[8]

Because Gilman had Asperger's syndrome and ADHD, Dykes accepted medication for him, sent through the PVC pipe along with a coloring book and crayons.[9][10] It was later confirmed that Dykes wanted a female reporter to broadcast him live in the bunker, and that he would commit suicide on live television. Investigators also revealed that he had been "training" Ethan to detonate the improvised explosive devices inside the bunker.[4]


On February 4, 2013, at 3:12 p.m. CST, the FBI's Hostage Rescue Team breached the roof of the bunker using explosive charges after negotiations began to break down and they saw, using a hidden camera, Dykes holding a gun. The agents threw stun grenades into the bunker[11] before exchanging gunfire with Dykes, killing him,[12] and rescuing the boy.[3] Gilman was taken to the hospital and was reported to be in good condition.[13] According to sources, two improvised explosive devices were discovered,[14] one inside the PVC pipe, the other inside the bunker.[10]

The perpetrator[edit]

Jimmy Dykes, a decorated Vietnam War Navy veteran, was identified as the gunman. He lived in isolation and supposedly lost contact with his only child, an adult daughter, years before the incident, according to people who lived near him.[15] He previously lived in Florida, where he was arrested for brandishing a gun in 1995.[9][15] In 2000, he was arrested for marijuana possession charges.[15] He moved to Midland City, where he beat a neighbor's dog to death with an iron pipe when it walked onto his property, warned children not to enter his property,[15] and built a speed bump to prevent motorists from driving too fast down the street. Dykes was also known to have patrolled his property at night with a shotgun and a flashlight.[1][9] The day prior to the standoff, he was due in court for a hearing on a menacing case in which he allegedly fired a gun at neighbors.[10] Dykes had cleared a path on his property for school buses to take, and he had started speaking to Charles Poland weeks prior to the incident.[8]


The following week, Phil McGraw interviewed Gilman and his mother.[16] On February 26, the bunker where Dykes held him captive was demolished by officials, who stated that it posed "a biological risk".[17]

See also[edit]


  1. ^ a b c "Neighbors describe Ala. gunman as volatile loner". Retrieved May 30, 2017.
  2. ^ "Inside an FBI Hostage Crisis". The Wall Street Journal. Retrieved 12 October 2015. ... Sheriff Olson identified Mr. Dykes's pistol as a Ruger.
  3. ^ a b "Alabama kidnapper was killed in firefight, explosives found in bunker, FBI says". foxnews.com. Retrieved 6 February 2013.
  4. ^ a b c d e News, A. B. C. (June 3, 2013). "How Cops Saved Boy in Bunker Standoff". ABC News. Retrieved May 30, 2017.
  5. ^ a b Carter, Chelsea J.; Howell, George. Alabama hostage suspect urged to let boy 'go home to his mother'. CNN, February 2, 2013.
  6. ^ Seiger, T. "FBI: No clear timeline in Midland City hostage situation". al.com, February 1, 2013
  7. ^ "Alabama hostage standoff update: Authorities slipped camera into bunker". ABC 15. Retrieved 6 February 2013.
  8. ^ a b "Dale County Sheriff: Hostage-taker Jimmy Lee Dykes planned the kidnapping for weeks". Retrieved May 30, 2017.
  9. ^ a b c Daly, Michael (January 30, 2017). "Alabama Hostage Standoff: Jimmy Lee Dykes Seized Boy to Gain Attention". The Daily Beast. Retrieved May 30, 2017.
  10. ^ a b c ""Jimmy Lee Dykes' Motive For Holding Boy In Alabama Bunker Remains Unclear: DA"". Retrieved May 30, 2017.
  11. ^ ""Dr. Phil interviews mom of Alabama boy who was held in bunker"". Retrieved May 30, 2017.
  12. ^ "Alabama child hostage-taker shot multiple times, body removed from bunker Wednesday night | al.com". Blog.al.com. Retrieved 2013-02-20.
  13. ^ "Alabama hostage: 5-year-old boy "happy to be home," says family member". Retrieved May 30, 2017.
  14. ^ "Jimmy Lee Dykes, Alabama Hostage Taker, Had Homemade Bombs In Bunker: Report". February 6, 2013. Retrieved May 30, 2017 – via Huff Post.
  15. ^ a b c d "Jimmy Lee Dykes Dead: 5-Year-Old Hostage Rescued In Alabama Standoff". February 4, 2013. Retrieved May 30, 2017 – via Huff Post.
  16. ^ "Mom to Dr. Phil: Ethan having trouble sleeping". CNN.com. Retrieved 2013-02-20.
  17. ^ ""Alabama Hostage Bunker Destroyed: Jimmy Lee Dykes' Shelter Demolished By Authorities"". Retrieved May 30, 2017.