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UPDATED: A law enforcement source said Monday that initial reports indicate the man who kidnapped a 5-year-old Alabama boy last week and was holding the child hostage in an underground bunker on his property is dead; the boy has been released and is in stable condition.
The source said an ambulance was seen leaving the area of the bunker, Fox News reports.
In a press conference Monday night, FBI Special Agent Steve Richardson told reporters the little boy had endured a lot and that he was receiving medical treatment. "The boy is laughing, joking, playing, he's eating; he's very brave, he's very lucky, and the success story is that he is out safe and doing good," he said.
Richardson was unable to clarify any other details as the incident is still being investigated.
USA TODAY reports that FBI agents entered the underground bunker in Midland City, Ala., and rescued the boy at 3:12 p.m. CT after deciding he was in danger from his captor, said FBI Special Agent in Charge Steve Richardson.
“Over the past 24 hours, negotiations deteriorated and Mr. Dykes was observed holding a gun,” Richardson said. He did not say how Dykes died.
There have been reports of one or two loud bangs on the property. A neighbor who lives about a quarter-mile from where Dykes was holed up told the Associated Press that he heard a boom followed by a gunshot.
A federal law enforcement official told USA TODAY that authorities took action after growing increasingly concerned about Dykes’ deteriorating mental state.
“They were not going to risk anything, but it was becoming clear that things were not going in the right direction,” said the official, who was briefed on the matter but was not authorized to comment publicly.
The official described the boy as being “OK.”
Earlier Monday, the Dale County Sheriff said Dykes believed he had an “important” story to share, though he offered no details.
During the standoff Dykes allowed authorities to send medication to the boy through a PVC pipe he had constructed from the bunker to the front of his property. They said Dykes made the little boy as comfortable as possible.
The FBI said in a statement Sunday that authorities were having open lines of communication with Dykes. The little boy requested Cheez-Its and a red Hot Wheels car, both of which were delivered to the bunker. Also delivered to the boy were coloring books and potato chips.
Interview with girl on bus at time of shooting
Tarrica Singletary, 14, was on the bus when terror struck the small community of Midland City, Alabama. “He said he was going to kill us, going to kill us all. The bus driver kept saying, ‘Just please get off the bus,’ and (Dykes) said, ‘Ah, all right, I’ll get off the bus.”
She said the driver “tried to back up and reverse and (Dykes) pulled out a gun and he just shot him, and the just took Ethan.”
Drones fly over Dykes’ property
USA TODAY reports that according to officials, surveillance drones flew over Dykes’ property.
“It gives them more time to study this bunker,” said former FBI profiler Brad Garrett, who is an ABC News consultant. “Does Mr. Dyke have any explosives? Has he booby trapped the doors if ever they dried to get in?”
Authorities engaged ‘around the clock’
Dale County Sheriff Wally Olson said at a news conference earlier Monday afternoon that authorities had been “engaged” with Dykes “around the clock.”
Dykes “feels like he has a story that’s important to him. Although it’s very complex, we’re trying to make a safe environment,” Olson said.
FBI was restricting what images photographers could take. AL.com reported less visible activity around the law enforcement command center along Highway 231 in Midland City than in previous days.
Bus driver remembered
On Sunday, more than 500 people paid final tribute to 66-year-old bus driver Charles Albert Poland Jr. who was killed when Dykes indicated he was going to take two boys from the bus ages six to eight. According to officials, Dykes did not know Ethan, it was a random kidnapping.
Poland is being hailed a hero for protecting the other children on the bus. Dale County School Superintendent Donny Bynum, who read letters written by three students who had ridden on Poland’s bus, said Poland is now “an angel who is watching over” the little boy.
One child wrote of Poland: “You didn’t deserve to die but you died knowing you kept everyone safe.”
Mel Adams, a Midland City Council member who owns the lot where reporters gathered, said he has known Dykes since they were ages three and four. He said Dykes has a brother and sister but that he is estranged from his family. At one time Dykes told Adams that he had “told part of his family to go to hell.”
Dykes’ neighbors described him as an anti-government survivalist and loner. He lived up a dirt road outside the very small town of Dothan in the southeast corner of the state.
While previous reports showed Dykes had purchased the property where he held the boy just two years ago, government records show he has roots in the state of Alabama and the area where the incident occurred.
Records and interviews with neighbors indicate Dykes grew up in the Dothan area and joined the Navy in Midland City, serving on active duty from 1964 to 1969. His records show several awards, including the Vietnam Service Medal and the Good Conduct Medal. During his service he was trained in aviation maintenance.
After leaving the Navy Dykes lived in Florida for some time where he worked as a surveyor and a long-haul truck driver. It is unclear how long he stayed there. He returned to Alabama two years ago when he purchased the property.
Dykes’ neighbor, Michael Creel, said Dykes built the bunker because after living in Florida and experiencing hurricanes, he wanted someplace safe to go. Neighbors described Dykes as a man who once beat a dog to death with a lead pipe, threatened to shoot children for setting foot on his property, and patrolled his yard with a flashlight and firearm at night.
State Rep. Steve Clouse said the boy’s mother told him Ethan has Asperger’s syndrome and ADHD, Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder.
Fox News reports Dykes made the child as comfortable as possible.