"Ethan has always been scared of coming down the bus steps," Kirkland said. "And Mr. Poland would always cheer him on, you know, 'Come on, little buddy, you can do it.'"
Ethan typically sat right behind Poland on the school bus, where the driver could keep an eye on him, Kirkland said.
That's where the boy was sitting the day police say Dykes came aboard the bus armed with a gun and demanding two hostages. Authorities say Poland was shot trying to stand between Dykes and the children.
"The reason I think Ethan was taken off the bus is because when he saw Mr. Poland shot, Ethan passed out," Kirkland said. "Mr. Dykes went down to catch him and he picked him up. And I think, in his own way, he was trying to care for him."
After the shooting, authorities say, Dykes fled to the bunker with the child as the standoff opened.