Negotiators talking to Alabama captor through pipe

7:15 AM, Feb 1, 2013   |    comments
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MIDLAND CITY, AL (CBSNews.com) - Speaking into a 4-inch-wide ventilation pipe, hostage negotiators tried Thursday to talk a man into releasing a kindergartener and ending a standoff in an underground bunker that stretched into its third day.

The man identified by multiple neighbors and witnesses as 65-year-old retired truck driver Jimmy Lee Dykes was accused of pulling the boy from a school bus on Tuesday and killing the driver. The pair was holed up in a small room on his property that authorities compared to tornado shelters common in the area.

James Arrington, police chief of the neighboring town of Pinckard, said the shelter was about 4 feet underground, with about 6-by-8 feet of floor space and a PVC pipe that negotiators were speaking through.

There were signs that the standoff could continue for some time: A state legislator said the shelter has electricity, food and TV. The police chief said the captor has been sleeping and told negotiators that he has spent long periods in the shelter before.

"He will have to give up sooner or later because (authorities) are not leaving," Arrington said. "It's pretty small, but he's been known to stay in there eight days."

Midland City Mayor Virgil Skipper said he has been briefed by law enforcement and visited with the boy's parents.

"He's crying for his parents," he said. "They are holding up good. They are praying and asking all of us to pray with them."

Republican Rep. Steve Clouse, who represents the Midland City area, said he visited the boy's mother Thursday and that she is "hanging on by a thread."

"Everybody is praying with her for the boy," he said.

Clouse said the mother told him that the boy has Asperger's syndrome, an autism-like disorder, as well as attention deficit hyperactivity disorder, or ADHD. Police have been delivering medication to him through the pipe, he said.

The normally quiet red clay road was teeming Thursday with more than a dozen police cars and trucks, a fire truck, a helicopter, officers from multiple agencies, media and at least one ambulance near Midland City, population 2,300.

As night fell and temperatures dipped into the low 40s, police and other emergency workers wore heavy coats outside a small church being used as a command post. Neighbors said Dykes had a small heater in the bunker.

Overhead, a small aircraft with blinking lights flew wide circles high above the man's property. An ambulance remained parked on the side of the dirt road.

"The three past days have not been easy on anybody," Dale County Sheriff Wally Olson said at a news briefing late Thursday. He said authorities were still communicating with the suspect, and that their primary goal was to get the boy home safely.

"There's no reason to believe the child has been harmed," he said.

People who live in the neighborhood said the suspect is a retired truck driver with a reputation, CBS News correspondent Manuel Bojorquez reports. They said he allegedly beat a dog to death and threatened to shoot kids who trespass on his property. He was reportedly due in court this week on a weapons charge.

Neighbor Ronda Wilbur described the suspect to CBS News as "very anti-social, very anti-government" and that he "hates everybody."

"My granddaughter who just turned 7, when I have her visiting me this next weekend, I won't have to worry about 'mean man,'" Wilbur told CBS News. "One way or another he's not gonna be there. He will either be locked up, or he'll be dead."

Wilbur told The Associated Press that the suspect beat her 120-pound dog with a lead pipe for coming onto his side of the dirt road. The dog died a week later.

"He said his only regret was he didn't beat him to death all the way," Wilbur told the AP. "If a man can kill a dog, and beat it with a lead pipe and brag about it, it's nothing until it's going to be people."

Michael Senn, a pastor who helped comfort other traumatized children after the attack, told CBS Dallas station KRLD-AM there's some concern about the hostage's welfare due to the weather.

"We're in hopes that there is a way to heat the bunker because it has been extremely cold, in the 30s," Senn told KRLD-AM.

Arrington thought the man had been sleeping some, because he told negotiators one night that he was through talking and was going to sleep.

Dykes was known around the neighborhood as a menacing figure who patrolled his yard at night with a flashlight and a shotgun.

The chief confirmed that Dykes held anti-government views, as described by multiple neighbors.

"He's against the government -- starting with Obama on down." He said the FBI, which was leading the standoff, had reason to believe that the bus driver's shooting was a hate crime.

"He doesn't like law enforcement or the government telling him what to do," Arrington said. "He's just a loner."

Authorities say the gunman boarded a stopped school bus Tuesday afternoon and demanded two boys between 6 and 8 years old. When the driver tried to block his way, the gunman shot him several times and took a 5-year-old boy off the bus.

"As far as we know there is no relation at all. He just wanted a child for a hostage situation," Senn told the AP.

Senn told KRLD-AM it's going to be a long road ahead of healing for the children on the bus.

"I would imagine every time they close their eyes they're reliving the tragedy," he said.

Dykes had been scheduled to appear in court Wednesday to face a charge of menacing some neighbors with a gun as they drove by his house weeks ago.

The bus driver, Charles Albert Poland Jr., 66, was hailed by locals as a hero who gave his life to protect the 21 students aboard the bus. Authorities say most of the students scrambled to the back of the bus when the gunman boarded.

Neighbors described a number of run-ins with Dykes in the time since he moved to this small town near the Georgia and Florida borders, in a region known for peanut farming. Dykes had been scheduled to appear in court to answer charges he shot at his neighbors in a dispute last month over a speed bump.

In that dispute, neighbor Claudia Davis said he yelled and fired shots at her, her son and her baby grandson over damage Dykes claimed their pickup truck did to a makeshift speed bump in the dirt road. No one was hurt.

Mike and Patricia Smith, who live across the street from Dykes and whose two children were on the bus, said their youngsters had a run-in with him about 10 months ago.

"My bulldogs got loose and went over there," Patricia Smith said. "The children went to get them. He threatened to shoot them if they came back."

Court records showed Dykes was arrested in Florida in 1995 for improper exhibition of a weapon, but the misdemeanor was dismissed. The circumstances of the arrest were not detailed in his criminal record. He was also arrested for marijuana possession in 2000.

© 2013 CBS Interactive Inc. All Rights Reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed. The Associated Press contributed to this report.

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