The News Courier in Athens, Alabama

State and Nation

February 14, 2013

Mother says she forgave man who held boy in bunker



The mother of an Alabama boy held for days in an underground bunker said in an interview broadcast Wednesday that she forgave her son's captor early in the standoff and asked authorities not to harm him.

Jennifer Kirkland's son, Ethan Gilman, was a captive for six days in rural Midland City, Ala., before FBI agents entered the bunker and killed 65-year-old Jimmy Lee Dykes.

Dykes "took care of Ethan to the best of his abilities" by cooking chicken for the boy and asking hostage negotiators to bring the child his favorite toy car, his mother told Dr. Phil McGraw in an interview for the "Dr. Phil Show."

"From the very beginning I had already forgiven Mr. Dykes, even though he still had my child," Kirkland said. "...I asked that he not be hurt. But if it came down to it, you know, of course I want my child safe."

Authorities returned Ethan unharmed after a gunbattle in which Dykes, according to a coroner, was shot multiple times. Kirkland said her son, who turned 6 just two days after the rescue, told her that he witnessed the shooting.

Members of the rescue team used stun grenades to disorient Dykes, who had a gun and had become agitated with negotiators, before rushing into the bunker, she said.

"They went in and covered Ethan with a vest and they shot Mr. Dykes," Kirkland said.

Ethan saw the agents kill his captor, his mother said, just as days earlier he had witnessed Dykes storm onto his school bus and fatally shoot the driver, Charles Albert Poland Jr.

Poland and Ethan had become close, Kirkland said, as the driver had helped the boy work up the courage to get off the bus by himself.

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