Kindergartener Hostage Situation Enters Third Day

The Slatest
Your News Companion by Ben Mathis-Lilley
Jan. 31 2013 10:50 AM

The Kindergartener Hostage Situation in Alabama Is Now in Its Third Day

A standoff between police and a 65-year-old man who is holding a kindergartener hostage in an underground bunker in rural Alabama is now in its third day, and there have been few outward signs that the situation will come to an end any time soon. The Associated Press with the scene on the ground:

Josh Voorhees Josh Voorhees

Josh Voorhees is a Slate senior writer. He lives in Iowa City. 

A normally quiet dirt road was teeming with activity around the siege that began late Tuesday. At least a dozen police cars and trucks, a fire truck, a helicopter, officers from multiple agencies, media and at least one ambulance crowded the stretch where the dead-end residential road branches off a U.S. highway near Midland City, population 2,300. A staging area for law enforcement was lit by bright lights overnight.
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The whole thing began Tuesday when Jimmy Lee Dykes, a retired truck driver, boarded a stopped school bus and shot and killed the 66-year-old driver after he refused Dykes' demand for two boys between the ages of 6 and 8 years old, according to police. Dykes then grabbed the child and fled to the bunker, where he remains. As downright terrifying as the words "underground bunker" may sound, reports suggest it may be a relatively run-of-the-mill tornado shelter, which are pretty common in the area. It is also reportedly stocked with food and equipped with electricity. But while the location may not be as scary as it originally sounded, that's not necessarily a good thing in the long run: According to ABC News, authorities believe that Dykes likely has enough food and water to stay holed up in the by bunker "for weeks." Even more troubling is the picture of Dykes that has emerged. The AP:

The gunman ... was known around the neighborhood as a menacing figure 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 at night with a flashlight and a shotgun.

The good news is that authorities say they have no reason to suspect that the child has been harmed. He's said to be biding his time by watching television, and Dykes recently agreed to allow police to lower down the boy's medicine, which is naturally being seen as a promising sign for the child's safety. As far as police can tell, Dykes has no relation to the boy. As for a reason for his motivation, the best anyone's come up with so far is the fact that he was due in court yesterday to face a charge of menacing his neighbors with a gun as they drove by his house a few weeks ago.

It's worth pointing out that this is still (obviously) a developing situation, and, as we've learned in the past, that means that some of the details currently being provided by authorities may not hold up in the long run. For instance, initial reports described the child as a 5-year-old, but since then there have been a smattering of reports identifying the hostage as being 6 years old.

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This post was updated at 10:58 a.m. with additional information.