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Alabama Hostage Standoff Ends; Kidnapped Child Is Safe

Posters for Ethan decorate power poles all over town, like this one outside the elementary school in Midland City, Ala.
Butch Dill
Posters for Ethan decorate power poles all over town, like this one outside the elementary school in Midland City, Ala.

Nearly a week after it began, the standoff in Midland City, Ala., where a 5-year-old-boy has been held captive in an underground bunker, has come to an end.

Citing a U.S. official, CBS News reports the "kidnapped child is alive [and the] kidnapper is dead."

CNN reports that an "explosion" was followed by "gun shots" shortly before the standoff came to an end.

State Rep. Steve Clouse said the boy is at a hospital seven or eight miles away from Midland City and he is "relatively healthy."

As we've reported, 65-year-old Jimmy Lee Dykes took the boy hostage after allegedly killing a bus driver. Authorities had been talking to Dykes through a pipe since the hostage situation developed.

Reuters reports that authorities killed the gunman. However, Clouse said he did not know whether Dykes had killed himself or if police had killed him.

Update at 11:40 p.m. ET Few New Details

Officials offered few details on the boy's rescue at a news conference Monday. The boy was identified only by his first name, Ethan.

Stephen Richardson, special agent in charge of the FBI's Mobile, Ala., division, visited Ethan at hospital.

"He is doing fine," he said. "He is laughing, joking, playing, eating, things you'd expect a normal 5-to-6-year-old young man to do."

Wally Olson, the Dale County, Ala., sheriff, said: "He's a very special child. He's been through a lot, he's endured a lot."

In a statement, the White House said President Obama called FBI Director Robert Mueller to "compliment him for the role federal law enforcement officers played in resolving the hostage situation."

Here's more from the statement:

"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."

Update at 5:32 p.m. ET. Negotiations Deteriorated:

During a televised news conference, Stephen E. Richardson, special agent in charge of the FBI's Mobile, Ala. division, said that during the last 24 hours, negotiations deteriorated and Dykes "was observed holding a gun."

That's when authorities decided that the boy was in imminent danger, so they made a move to rescue the boy.

"The child appears physically unharmed," Richardson said.

Alabama Gov. Robert Bentley said in a statement that he was "thankful that the child who was abducted is now safe."

He continued: "At the same time, we also want to remember the family and friends of the bus driver — Charles Poland, Junior. This man was a true hero who was willing to give up his life so others might live. We are all inspired by his courage and bravery."

Copyright 2021 NPR. To see more, visit

Eyder Peralta is NPR's East Africa correspondent based in Nairobi, Kenya.
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