MIDLAND CITY, Ala. - The 5-year-old boy held hostage in an underground bunker for six days by a menacing, unpredictable neighbour is doing well, authorities said.
But questions remain over how authorities monitored 65-year-old Jimmy Lee Dykes and what led them to storm the closet-sized shelter, killing him almost a week after he was accused of fatally shooting a school bus driver on Jan. 29 and grabbing the child at random from a busload of students.
Interviewed Tuesday, the boy's great uncle, Berlin Enfinger, told ABC's Good Morning America that the child was relieved to be home after his rescue a day earlier. Authorities had said they considered the 5-year-old to be facing imminent danger when they decided to go in.
"He's happy to be home, and he looks good," Enfinger said.
Authorities remained tight-lipped about the end of the standoff. Neighbors said they heard a bang and gunshots, but the FBI wouldn't confirm that. Authorities also kept under wraps exactly how they were able to monitor Dykes and the boy in such a confined space.
"We have a big crime scene behind us to process," said Special Agent Steve Richardson. "I can't talk about sources, techniques or methods that we used. But I can tell you the success story is (the boy) is safe."
He declined to say if the property had been rigged with explosives.
Sheriff Wally Olson said late Monday that Dykes was armed when officers entered the bunker to rescue the child. He said the boy was threatened, but declined to elaborate.
"That's why we went inside — to save the child," he said. " ... It's a relief for us to be able to reunited a mother with her child."
Daryle Hendry, who lives near the bunker, said he heard a boom Monday afternoon, followed by what sounded like a gunshot. Dykes had been seen with a gun, and officers concluded the boy was in imminent danger, Richardson told reporters.
It was not immediately clear how authorities determined the man had a gun.
After the rescue, authorities, said, the boy was reunited with his mother and appeared to be OK. He was taken to a hospital. Officials have said he has Asperger's syndrome and attention deficit hyperactivity disorder.
Richardson said he had been to the hospital to see the boy and the child was laughing, joking, eating and "doing the things you'd expect a normal 5- or 6-year-old to do."
The rescue capped a hostage drama that disrupted the lives of many in a tranquil town of 2,400 people, nestled amid peanut farms and cotton fields some 100 miles (160 kilometres) southeast of the state capital of Montgomery. It is a small, close-knit community that has long relied on a strong Christian faith, a policy of "love thy neighbour" and the power of group prayer.
The child's plight prompted nightly candlelight vigils. Fliers appealing for a safe end to the crisis were tucked into the chain-link fence along with ribbons at the school where the kindergartner was enrolled.
While a town anxiously waited for days, authorities had been speaking with Dykes though a plastic pipe that went into the bunker. It was about 4 feet underground, with about 50 square feet of floor space, built like the tornado shelters common in this area of the South.
Authorities sent food, medicine and other items into the bunker, which apparently had running water, heat and cable television but no toilet.
FBI bomb technicians later scoured the property for any explosive devices, FBI spokesman Jason Pack said. He added they would be conducting an even more exhaustive search of the site once it was deemed safe.
Asked about officials who said Dykes had been killed by law enforcement officers, Pack responded in an email early Tuesday: "The facts surrounding the incident will be established by a shooting review team from Washington, D.C., in the coming days."
At the request of law enforcement authorities, Secretary of Defence Leon Panetta had approved the provision of certain equipment that could be employed to assist in the hostage situation, according to a U.S. official who requested anonymity to discuss a pending law enforcement matter. It is not clear whether the equipment was actually used.
Associated Press writers Jay Reeves in Midland City and Lolita Baldor in Washington contributed to this report.
- Crime & Justice
- Politics & Government