February 5, 2013

FBI: Ala. hostage-taker was in 'firefight' with SWAT agents

The Associated Press

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Dale County Sheriff Wally Olsen answers questions during a news conference late Monday in Midland City, Ala., where authorities stormed an underground bunker, freeing the 5-year-old boy and leaving his captor dead after a week of fruitless negotiations.

AP

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"For the first time in almost a week, I woke up this morning to the most beautiful sight ... my sweet boy," she said. "I can't describe how incredible it is to hold him again."

Dale County Coroner Woodrow Hilboldt said Tuesday that he had not been able to confirm exactly how Dykes died because the man's body remained in the bunker. An autopsy was to be conducted in Montgomery once the body is taken away.

It also wasn't clear how authorities knew Dykes was armed, or what kind of surveillance they used to track his behavior and movement.

At the request of law enforcement authorities, Secretary of Defense Leon Panetta had approved the provision of certain equipment that could be employed to assist in the hostage situation, according to a U.S. official who requested anonymity to discuss a pending law enforcement matter. It is not clear whether the equipment was actually used.

In Midland City, a town of about 2,400 nestled among peanut and cotton fields, residents were relieved that the boy was safely rescued from Dykes, a Vietnam-era veteran described by neighbors as an unstable menace who beat a dog to death and threatened to shoot trespassers.

Children and teachers were trying to get back to normal, though some children who were on the bus where Dykes killed the driver on Jan. 29 have not yet returned to school, said Donny Bynum, superintendent of Midland City schools. Counselors and clergy are at the school to help any distraught students.

Officials hope to eventually throw a party to celebrate the boy's sixth birthday and to honor the memory of Charles Albert Poland Jr., the slain bus driver. No date has been set, Bynum said.

At the hospital, the boy gave his mother a big hug. Officers gave him a teddy bear, the sheriff said.

"He's just a bundle of joy," Olson said.

For now, the boy's family just wants things to go back to normal — for all the reporters to go home, for him to be like any other kid.

"He has gone through a terrible ordeal, and I don't know if he will ever get over it," said Debra Cook, the boy's great aunt. "I just want him to be all right."

 

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