Child Freed, Kidnapper Dead, in Alabama Hostage Drama
A 5-year-old boy, who was held hostage in an underground Alabama bunker for almost a week, was rescued on Monday in a raid that left the kidnapper dead, authorities said.
The boy, who has been identified only as Ethan, was rushed to safety and is "doing fine," an FBI agent told reporters in Midland City, Alabama.
Agents said they feared the boy was in "imminent danger" after seeing the kidnapper, retired trucker Jimmy Lee Dykes, holding a gun.
Negotiations with the gunman deteriorated, FBI Special Agent Stephen Richardson said, according to AFP, and agents were ordered to storm the bunker at 3:12 pm (2112 GMT) central time.
"The subject is deceased," Richardson said of Dykes, declining to provide further details on the kidnapper's death.
"We were certainly concerned for the safety of the child," Richardson explained. "He is very brave. And he is very lucky.
"The success story is that Ethan is with his mother right now," Richardson added.
Residents described hearing an explosion and shots.
"I heard a big boom and then ... I believe I heard rifle shots," Bryon Martin, who owns a house near the bunker, told CNN. It was a loud noise that "made me jump off the ground," he said.
Police have said Dykes, aged 65, boarded a school bus last Tuesday and when driver Charles Albert Poland tried to block him, shot the man dead. He then snatched Ethan and held him in a bunker on his property for six day as police tried to negotiate his release.
"It got really tough to negotiate with him," Dale County Sheriff Wally Olson told reporters after the rescue.
The boy was reunited with his mother at a hospital in nearby Dothan, Alabama. "He's laughing, joking, playing, eating -- the things you'd expect of a 5- or 6-year-old," Richardson added.
Dykes, a US Navy veteran who worked in aircraft maintenance in the 1960s, had been known to stay in his underground bunker for up to eight days, neighbors, who have evacuated the area, told ABC News earlier.
They also told US media he had dramatic behavioral swings and anti-government views.
The slain bus driver, Charles Poland, 66, was described as a quiet man who enjoyed a simple life with his wife, Jan.
People who knew him said it was hard for Poland to discipline children on his bus when they misbehaved, the Alabama-based Dothan Eagle newspaper reported.
"It says in the Bible the meek will inherit the earth," Poland's brother-in-law, Melvin Skipper, was quoted as saying. "He was the meekest man I knew."
The incident was yet another tragedy in the epidemic of gun violence in America, still reeling from the tragedy in Sandy Hook, Connecticut, six weeks ago, when gunman Adam massacred 27 people, including 20 first-grade students.
President Barack Obama is urging Congress for action "soon" on curbing gun violence and is seeking the renewal of the ban on military-style assault rifles, saying that it is time to restrict the sale of high-capacity ammunition clips that can fire off many rounds in seconds.
The president's plans are vigorously opposed by many Republicans, who believe he is watering down the constitutional right to bear arms, and by the gun lobby headed by the powerful National Rifle Association, which has been calling for armed guards in all US schools as a solution to the problem.