It lasted almost a week and in the end, it was the scenario most wanted. A kidnapped austic child returned to his parents after being held captive against his will. His kidnapper? Dead. At the hands of an FBI shooter. It's over. A community, that was and is a living, breathing being, was disrupted by Jimmy Lee Dykes, a madman with an agenda that the world may never really know or understand.
The ordeal began last Tuesday when Dykes, a Vietnam-era Navy veteran who had once beaten a dog to death with a metal pipe and threatened children who walked onto his property with death, stormed onto a school bus in Midland City and demanded two children. The bus driver, Charles Poland, Jr., stood in his way as the children began escaping out the back door. Dykes, police say, then killed Mr. Poland and grabbed Ethan, with whom he then escaped to a home-dug 8-by-6-foot bunker in a rural area nearby. Over the weekend, police said Dykes, who was scheduled to go to court last week over a misdemeanor charge of menacing his neighbors with a shotgun, had a "story [to tell] that's important to him, although it is very complex," according to authorities.
6-year old Ethan is austic and didn't understand what was happening to him but he got through the ordeal virtually and thankfully unscathed. He spent his 6th birthday, a time when children his age should be playing "pin the tail on the donkey," playing with his friends and eating as much birthday cake as he can, in a bunker with a strange person that was unknown to him.
The FBI has not said how it got an inside glimpse of the closet-sized bunker, but Randall Rogan says it's likely that a small device was attached to one of the items handed to Dykes through the pipe, including toys and medicines for the boy. "We have a big crime scene behind us to process," said Special Agent Steve Richardson of the FBI's Mobile, Alabama, office at a press conference Monday. "I can't talk about sources, techniques or methods that we used. But I can tell you the success story is (the boy) is safe."
Rogan, a crisis communications expert at Wake Forest University who has been following the story closely, adding the multiagency involvement is “atypical, quite honestly, for what, after all, is not a significant terrorist event."
According to the Mobile Register, the Dothan Eagle and the Associated Press, the FBI has not yet said how Dykes died, or how Ethan escaped injury in an extraction that began, when Dykes showed symptoms of being irrational and when a covert FBI camera inserted into the bunker showed him pacing with a gun. Neighbors reported hearing several loud bangs and bursts of gunfire. The agency also has not said how it got an inside glimpse of the closet-sized bunker but Rogan says it's likely that a small device was attached to one of the items handed to Dykes through the pipe, including toys and medicines for the boy.
Aside from tactics, there are other details from the siege and raid that are likely to go unreported and one of them is how the decision to finally breach the compound was made. Police have said they were concerned about his erratic behavior, yet, to that point, Dykes had exhibited caring instincts for the boy. The ordeal ended at around 3 p.m. Central time Monday when Dykes had received food and other items intended for the boy in previous days. This time, however, the team opened the hatch and dropped a "distractionary device" - more commonly known as a flashbang, which is intended to disorient sight and hearing.
Dykes was disoriented but managed to fire off one shot. The rescue team fired back - shooting Dykes dead - and saved the boy. With that, the crisis that drew the attention of the nation was over.
"They may not fully disclose how he died immediately and though it was obviously a success in that the child was rescued safe and unharmed, it was not a complete success, since a true complete success is one where there is no violent resolution," says Rogan, adding that 97 percent of hostage situations end nonviolently, according to FBI data.
6-year old Ethan is back with his family, safe and sound and for the most part, unscathed. He might be a little beated up mentally, given his ordeal but in the end,
During a news conference with Alabama school officials, Donny Bynum, superintendent of Dale County Schools, says, "We have a long way to go. We have a healing process that we as a community must go through.'
Law enforcement officials have said they even managed to sneak a camera into the roughly 8 feet by 6 feet bunker where Dykes holed up but have declined to say how.
“It’s a technique we may want to use again, so we’re not being specific,” an official told NBC News.
President Obama offered his thanks to the FBI on Monday night and in a statement from the Oval Office, the president, who was aprised of the situaion, stated that "this evening, the President called FBI director Robert Mueller to compliment him for the role federal law enforcement officers played in resolving the hostage situation in Alabama today. The President praised the exceptional coordination between state, local and federal partners, and thanked all the law enforcement officials involved during the nearly week long ordeal for their roles in the successful rescue of the child.”
Dale County took a deep breath Monday afternoon when Jimmy Lee Dykes chose to commit "suicide by cop" instead of facing justice. At best, he was looking at first-degree murder for the death of Charles Albert Poland, Jr., the bus driver that he killed to start the chain of events. Then you have the kidnapping of 6-year old Ethan, who was there at the wrong place at the wrong time. Dykes, who was looking at a misdemeanor charge and court date for menacing on Wednesday morning, the day after the kidnapping, is dead. A bully has been taken out of commission and will never harm another child or adult again.
“If I could, I would do cartwheels all the way down the road,” Debra Cook, the boy’s aunt, told Good Morning America. “I was ecstatic.”
While Jimmy Lee Dykes chose not to listen to his better angels, which eventually cost him his life, the residents of Midland City, Alabama, can finally exhale. An ordeal that they did not want to have any part of is over. Life as they knew it was changed.
At the same time, a madman will never roam their streets again.