The News Courier in Athens, Alabama

Local News

January 31, 2013

Child hostage standoff in 2nd day at bunker

(Continued)

The situation remained unchanged for hours as negotiators talked to the suspect, Alabama State Trooper Charles Dysart told a news conference late Wednesday. Earlier in the day, Sheriff Wally Olson said that authorities had "no reason to believe that the child has been harmed."

Local TV station WDHN obtained a police dispatch recording of the moment officers first arrived at the site. On it, the officers are heard saying that they were trying to communicate with Dykes through a PVC pipe leading into the shelter.

Authorities gave no details of the standoff, and it was unclear if Dykes made any demands from the bunker, which some officials described as being like the underground tornado shelters some homes have in their yards.

"As far as we know there is no relation at all. He just wanted a child for a hostage situation," said Michael Senn, a pastor who helped comfort other traumatized children after the attack.

The bus driver, Charles Albert Poland Jr., 66, was hailed by locals as a hero who gave his life to protect the 21 students aboard the bus. Authorities say most of the students scrambled to the back of the bus when the gunman boarded.

Neighbors described a number of run-ins with Dykes in the time since he moved to this small town near the Georgia and Florida borders, in a region known for peanut farming. Dykes had been scheduled to appear in court to answer charges he shot at his neighbors in a dispute last month over a speed bump.

In that dispute, neighbor Claudia Davis said he yelled and fired shots at her, her son and her baby grandson over damage Dykes claimed their pickup truck did to a makeshift speed bump in the dirt road. No one was hurt.

Mike and Patricia Smith, who live across the street from Dykes and whose two children were on the bus, said their youngsters had a run-in with him about 10 months ago.

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