Ala. town mourns for bus driver amid standoff

Associated Press
In this undated photo released by the Dale County Board of Education, bus driver Charles Albert Poland, Jr., is shown. A standoff in rural Alabama went into a second full day Thursday as police surrounded an underground bunker where a retired truck driver was holding a 5-year-old hostage he grabbed off a school bus after shooting Poland, the driver dead. Poland Jr., 66, was hailed by locals as a hero who gave his life to protect the 21 students aboard the bus.  (AP Photo/ Dale County Board of Education)
.

View gallery

MIDLAND CITY, Ala. (AP) — The Alabama bus driver slain at the beginning of a multi-day hostage drama was known for his acts of kindness, from fixing someone's tractor to tilling the garden of a neighbor who had a heart attack.

Charles Albert Poland Jr. was mourned by hundreds who gathered at a funeral home not far from the underground bunker where police say an Alabama man was still holding a 5-year-old boy early Sunday. Friends remembered Poland as a humble hero who gave his life to protect the children on the bus — and someone who went out of his way to help neighbors.

"You don't owe me anything," Poland, of Newton, once told a recipient of his good deed. "You're my neighbor."

The 66-year-old Poland was driving a school bus carrying 21 children last Tuesday when an armed man boarded the bus and demanded two boys between 6 and 8 years old. Poland tried to block his way, so the gunman shot him several times and abducted a 5-year-old boy — who police say remains in an underground bunker with the suspect, identified as 65-year-old Jim Lee Dykes.

William Lisenby, a school bus driver who also taught Sunday School with Poland, was flanked by other area bus drivers as he arrived at Saturday night's viewing. Lisenby spoke in Biblical terms when referring to Poland, whose funeral is Sunday afternoon.

"If you'll notice the similarities there, of what Chuck did was the same thing that Jesus Christ did. These children, even though they were not Chuck's, he laid down his life to defend those children. My hat's off to him for that," he said.

Dykes is a Vietnam-era veteran described by some neighbors as a menacing figure with anti-government views. Neighbors said Dykes built the bunker on his rural property, and police have been communicating with Dykes through a ventilation pipe into the bunker. On Sunday morning, an unmanned drone was seen flying above Dykes' property.

Dale County Sheriff Wally Olson told reporters Saturday that Dykes has told them he has blankets and an electric heater in the bunker. Authorities have been conferring in a nearby church.

Olson also said Dykes has allowed police to deliver coloring books, medication and toys for the boy.

"I want to thank him for taking care of our boy," Olson said. "That's very important."

The shooting and abduction took place in Midland City, a small town near Dothan, Ala., in the state's southeastern corner.

Newton is about three miles away, a small hamlet with fewer than 2,000 residents. It sits amid cotton farms and rolling hills sprinkled with red earth; most of the residents commute to Dothan or to a nearby Army post. And many knew Poland.

"He's probably the nicest guy you'll ever meet," said Lonnie Daniels, the 69-year-old owner of the NAPA Auto Parts store, one of three establishments in town that was open Saturday.

Daniels said Poland had been married to his wife for 43 years. Poland was from Idaho, but his wife was from Newton. The couple lived there for decades in a small mobile home, and Poland enjoyed gardening and clearing brush from his property.

"I knew that he was always there if I needed," said Daniels, adding that Poland was an excellent mechanic with an array of tools that he lent to people in town.

Skipper said Poland and his wife would often sit on their porch, drinking coffee, praying and reading the Bible.

"They loved to be together," Skipper said.

On Saturday morning, Poland's wife wasn't home. A rack of worn trucker's caps sat on hooks on the porch, and two freshly baked pies were laid atop a cooler.

The victim's son, Aaron Poland, told NBC News that he wasn't surprised by his father's final act, trying to protect a bus full of kids.

"He considered them his children," Poland said, choking back tears. "And I know that's the reason why my dad took those shots, for his children, just like he would do for me and my sister."

As Newton grieves, residents are praying for the safe return of the boy being held hostage.

"The community is real concerned," said Fred McNab, mayor of Pinckard, Ala. "You can tell by the food that's been carried over there to the church. It's just devastating. We want it to come to a resolution. We want to save that little child."

Police have used the pipe for communication and to deliver the boy medication for his emotional disorders. State Rep. Steve Clouse, who visited the boy's mother, said the boy has Asperger's syndrome — a mild form of autism — and attention deficit hyperactivity disorder, or ADHD.

But police have not revealed how often they are in touch or what the conversations have been about.

Local officials who have spoken to police or the boy's family have described a small room with food, electricity and a TV.

Sheriff Olson would not say Saturday whether Dykes has made any demands. Olson added that he is limited in the details he can release.

Dykes had been scheduled to appear in court Wednesday to answer charges he shot at his neighbors in a dispute last month over a speed bump.

___

Follow Tamara Lush on Twitter at http://twitter.com/tamaralush

Associated Press writers Eric Tucker in Washington; Tamara Lush and Phillip Rawls in Midland City; Bob Johnson in Montgomery, Ala., and AP researcher Rhonda Shafner in New York contributed to this report.

View Comments (288)

Recommended for You

  • David Cassidy prepares to auction Florida mansion

    FORT LAUDERDALE, Fla. (AP) — Like many of his baby boomer peers with grown children and debts to settle, one-time heartthrob David Cassidy is looking to downsize.

    Associated Press35 mins ago
  • Luggage piece found on French island near possible MH370 debris

    Part of a bag was found Thursday on the French Indian Ocean island of La Reunion not far from plane debris which has fuelled speculation it may be from missing flight MH370. "The piece of luggage was here since yesterday but nobody really paid attention," said Johnny Begue, a member of a local…

    AFP
  • Family Pet-Sitter Helps Herself To Homeowner's Possessions

    DEAR ABBY: A trusted and beloved family member who takes care of my cats -- and therefore has a key to my house -- has been stealing things like cleaning supplies, knickknacks, family pictures, etc. Most of them have little monetary value. But imagine my surprise when I spotted some of my missing…

    Dear Abby
  • Turkey onslaught on Kurds, after IS attack, fuels anger

    DIYARBAKIR, Turkey (AP) — Just when it seemed Turkey was getting serious about the fight against IS, it has turned its military focus to pounding its old foe: the Kurdish rebels.

    Associated Press28 mins ago
  • An American Dentist Killed Zimbabwe’s Famous Lion

    Cecil the lion, a famous black-maned resident of Zimbabwe’s Hwange National Park, died at the hands of an American dentist, conservationists claim. “Mr. Palmer shot Cecil with a bow and arrow but this shot didn't kill him,” Johnny Rodrigues, chairman of the Zimbabwe Conservation Task Force, said in…

    TakePart.com
  • View

    Creeping vines, abandoned village (20 photos)

    Just a handful of people still live in a village on Shengshan Island east of Shanghai that was once home to more than 2,000 fishermen. Every day hundreds of tourists visit Houtouwan, making their way on narrow footpaths past tumbledown houses overtaken by vegetation. The remote village, on one of…

    Yahoo News
  • Russia reassures Israel over Iran nuclear deal

    Russian President Vladimir Putin told Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu on Thursday that the deal on Iran's nuclear program would improve security in the Middle East and guaranteed that Tehran would not acquire nuclear arms. Israel plans to lobby the U.S. Congress not to approve the…

    Reuters
  • Colorado theater shooter's dad saw wide-eyed smirk before

    CENTENNIAL, Colo. (AP) — James Holmes came home on winter break from graduate school looking haggard and making odd facial expressions, but his father didn't suspect at the time that he was descending into mental illness.

    Associated Press
  • Dashcam catches off-duty cop threatening to put 'hole in head' of driver

    Technically Incorrect: A Massachusetts driver makes a wrong turn. What happens next, all filmed on his dashcam, has led to an investigation. And yes, it's now on YouTube.

    CNET
  • Hidden Security Cameras Are Shocking Surprise For Daughter

    DEAR ABBY: I'm a 19-year-old woman in college who still lives with my parents. I found out something several weeks ago that's bothering me, and I need advice badly. Years ago, after a robbery, my parents installed security cameras outside our house. I knew about them because they were visible. But…

    Dear Abby
  • Goat's head nearly severed in brutal knife attack in Idaho

    A small goat was nearly decapitated and another goat died from a "heinous" knife attack on the animals in a fenced and locked site where they had been placed to graze on weeds in northern Idaho, a police spokeswoman said on Wednesday. A third goat is being treated for a knife wound in its back from…

    Reuters
  • Jon Stewart signing off 'Daily Show' fake newscast for real

    NEW YORK (AP) — After more than 16 years and nearly 2,600 telecasts, Jon Stewart can feel proud of his scads of Emmys and his pair of Peabody Awards, his cultural gravitas (he hung with the Prez, both on and off the air!), even his reprobate status at Fox News.

    Associated Press
  • Trump leads Republicans, but Democrats thump him: poll

    Bombastic US billionaire Donald Trump handily leads all fellow Republicans in the 2016 presidential race, though Hillary Clinton and other Democrats trump him in head-to-head matchups, a poll said Thursday. Trump plunged into the crowded Republican nomination battle last month, and has since…

    AFP
  • Play

    Body cam footage from Cincinnati shooting contradicts official story

    A University of Cincinnati police officer has been indicted for murder after body camera footage contradicted his official story outlining the events that led to the shooting death of unarmed Cincinnati driver Samuel Dubose.

    Reuters Videos
  • Taliban disavows Afghan peace talks after leader declared dead

    By Kay Johnson KABUL (Reuters) - The Taliban's official spokesman disavowed peace talks with the Afghan government on Thursday, throwing fledgling efforts to negotiate an end to 14 years of war into disarray. The statement came a day after the Afghan government said that Mullah Omar, the elusive…

    Reuters
  • The Latest: Police: Hate crime not ruled out over MLK flags

    ATLANTA (AP) — The latest on the investigation into Confederate flags found at the Ebenezer Baptist Church near the Martin Luther King Jr. Center in Atlanta:

    Associated Press
  • Internet mauls dentist accused of illegal kill of popular lion

    Technically Incorrect: Walter Palmer, a dentist in Minnesota, has his Yelp entry attacked by those not fond of his allegedly illegal killing of Cecil the lion in Zimbabwe.

    CNET