Alabama sheriff: 5-year-old hostage gets chips, toys as standoff enters 6th day
MIDLAND CITY, Alabama (CNN) — A gunman barricaded in an underground bunker with a 5-year-old hostage is making the boy “as comfortable as possible,” authorities said, as the standoff in southeastern Alabama entered its sixth day Sunday.
Police have said little about what, if any, demands have been made by the man who they say killed a school bus driver and grabbed the kindergartener Tuesday afternoon before holing up in the bunker in Midland City.
“We continue to maintain an open line of communication 24 hours a day, whenever he wants to talk,” according to a statement released by Alabama State Troopers. The statement was released after authorities canceled a news conference because there was “no new information” to report.
Those negotiations are being carried out between the suspect and authorities through a 60-foot plastic ventilation pipe that leads from the bunker, authorities said.
The suspect in the case has been identified by authorities as 65-year-old Jimmy Lee Dykes, who has been described by neighbors and officials as a survivalist with “anti-government” views.
What information authorities have released has primarily been related to the welfare of the boy.
Potato chips and toys
Dykes has allowed “comfort items” to be delivered, such as potato chips and toys, the statement said.
He also has agreed to allow authorities to send down prescription medicine the boy needs, Dale County Sheriff Wally Olson told reporters during a short briefing Saturday morning.
The 5-year-old suffers from Asperger’s syndrome and attention deficit disorder, said State. Rep. Steve Clouse.
Dykes has told authorities he has blankets and a heater in the bunker, and authorities have previously said the bunker — built 4-feet underground — has electricity.
It is unclear if Dykes has access to news reports about the standoff.
The sheriff appeared during a morning news briefing to speak directly to Dykes: “I want to thank him for taking care of our boy. That’s very important.”
As the standoff continued, preparations were underway for Sunday’s funeral for the school bus driver, who has been described as a hero for his actions.
According to authorities and witnesses: On Tuesday at about 3:40 p.m., the bus driver, Charles Albert Poland Jr., was shuttling children from school to their homes when he dropped children off and the gunman boarded the bus.
The gunman demanded that Poland, 66, hand over two children. Poland refused, blocking access to the bus’s narrow aisle as at least 21 children escaped out of the back emergency door, according to police.
The gunman shot Poland four times, killing him; grabbed the boy and then barricaded the two of them inside a nearby bunker.
It’s unclear whether the gunman was after a specific child on the bus. Police have said there is no connection between the suspect and the boy.
Standoff a focal point
The standoff has become a focal point for the people of Midland City, a town of about 2,300 northwest of Dothan.
Signs posted around the town and at the church urge people to pray for the boy.
During a vigil Saturday outside the town hall, Michelle Riley called on Dykes to release the boy.
“He just needs to know that … everybody makes mistakes,” she said. “Everybody’s been through life events that changes them, but (the boy is) innocent. You know, let him go home to his mother. Let him go home to his grandparents. Let him come out to the community. Let him go back to school and be with his friends.”
By Chelsea J. Carter and Vivian Kuo, CNN. CNN’s Vivian Kuo reported from Midland City and Chelsea J. Carter wrote from Atlanta. CNN’s George Howell contributed to this report.