MIDLAND CITY - As of 7:42 a.m. on Wednesday, law enforcement personnel continue to watch over the scene near Destiny Church where Jimmy Lee Dykes holds a young child hostage in a bunker at his home.
Dykes allegedly shot and killed school bus driver Charles Albert Poland Jr., 66, on Tuesday afternoon and abducted the young child.
Six to eight law enforcement officers dressed in tactical SWAT gear, including some who carried riot shields walked up the dirt road toward the bunker around 7 a.m.
Law enforcement agencies from throughout the Wiregrass converged on a small dirt road off U.S.231 North Tuesday after a gunman shot a school bus driver and abducted a young child.
Around 3:30 p.m., a man identified by neighbors as 65-year-old Jimmy Lee Dykes allegedly boarded a Dale County school bus as it made a stop on Private Road 1539 in Midland City and shot Poland before leaving with a 5- or 6-year-old child.
Witnesses and neighbors said Dykes fled into a homemade bunker located on his property.
Dale County Sheriff Wally Olsen said the situation, which he wouldn’t confirm as a hostage situation, was ongoing late Tuesday night, adding that he believed the child was unharmed at the time but that the situation was unlikely to conclude quickly.
Michael Creel, Dykes’ neighbor on Private Road 1539, said he went outside after his sister heard gunshots.
“Me and her started running down the road,” Creel said. “That’s when I realized the bus had its siren going off. Kids were filing out, running down the hill toward the church.”
Creel said he attempted to chase the shooter down once someone told him the direction Dykes had headed.
“He’s 67 years old, so I figured I could catch him,” Creel said. “Apparently he didn’t go through the field like I thought. He’s got a four-foot-wide, about six-foot-long, eight-foot-deep homemade bomb shelter. It’s got about three to four feet of sand on top of it. If you didn’t know it was there, you wouldn’t (notice it).”
Carol Shepard said her daughter, who was on the bus at the time, identified the man as “Mr. Jimmy,” their next-door neighbor.
“All we know is he shot the bus driver and took a 6-year-old child,” Shepard said.
Neighbors said Creel didn’t appear to know the child he took from the bus and has no children of his own.
“I talked to a girl that was riding the bus, and she told me that he came on the bus and said, ‘I need two kids between the ages of 6 and 8,’” Creel said. “The driver told him, ‘I can’t do that.’ (The driver) tried to get away from the guy.”
Dykes was scheduled to be in court Wednesday for a bench trial on a menacing charge.
James Edward Davis Jr., who lives near Dykes on Private Road 1539, told the Dothan Eagle that Dykes pulled a gun on him and his daughter on Dec. 10 after Dykes believed Davis had driven in Dykes' yard. Davis said he reported Dykes to the Dale County Sheriff's Department. Dykes was arrested Dec. 22 and charged with menacing.
Davis said Dykes has lived at a residence on Private Road 1539 for about a year. He said Dykes constructed a "bunker" behind the residence with a PVC pipe leading to the back end of the residence.
"It's the craziest thing. He will be outside in his yard digging dirt at 2:30 in the morning," Davis Jr. told the Eagle.
Creel backed Davis Jr.’s description of Dykes.
“He’s the type that thinks the government’s out to get him,” said Creel, who also said Dykes is a Vietnam veteran. “He’s not right in the head.”
Dothan Police Sgt. Rachel David said authorities conducted evacuations of the nearby area soon after arriving.
Private Road 1539 is located near Destiny Church just off US 231.
After the shooting, emergency personnel gathered children at the church, which is located at the entrance of the dirt road.
Several crying children were escorted from the scene by parents.
Both sides of US 231 were shut down for much of the evening, but were reopened late Tuesday.
All Dale County and Ozark City Schools closed Wednesday.