One man is dead and a child has been taken hostage after a gunman boarded an Alabama school bus, shooting the driver and abducting one child.
The incident occurred around 3:40 p.m. on January 29 when a man boarded a school bus in Midland City, Alabama. The alleged suspect, 65-year-old Jimmy Lee Dykes, reportedly boarded the school bus as it was parked in a church parking lot. He told the bus driver he needed children between the ages of six and eight. The bus driver refused to allow the man to take any of the children, pulled the emergency switch and began backing up the bus. The suspect then shot the driver, grabbed an unidentified 5-year-old boy and fled with the child. The driver is reportedly deceased, and there is a possible second shooting victim.
The suspect, whose home is behind the church, took the child into a bunker located near his home. According to Dale County Sheriff Wally Olson, law enforcement officials were talking to the suspect via a PVC pipe which is connected to the bunker. The child is reported to be "okay", but the situation is "delicate".
Police investigate a school bus shooting in Alabama
According to a press release issued by the Dale County Sheriff's office, a command post has been established at the intersection of 231 North and Private Road 1539 in Dale County. Officials with multiple law enforcement agencies are on the scene, including the bomb squad. No explosives have been located at this time, but authorities are taking "precautionary measures." Residents in the immediate vicinity of the area have been evacuated. Olson told reporters:
"We will continue to work diligently through the night in an effort to bring closure to this incident as quickly as possible."
He continued by saying:
"Due to the sensitive nature of the open and ongoing incident, limited details are being released at this time. Authorities have now confirmed one fatality and also confirmed evacuations were conducted...Authorities also confirmed the presence of a child at the scene but are giving no further information at this time."
Michael Senn, pastor of the church where the bus shooting occurred, said one of the children on board the bus told him the suspect grabbed the boy and shot the bus driver four times. The remainder of the children ran off the bus and hid behind the church. Senn told WSFA:
"All the kids are at a safe place. I spoke to a young guy, 13-years-old, that was really traumatized. I talked with him and ministered with him and prayed with him before he left."
Mike Creel, a neighbor of the suspect, chased the suspect, thinking it was a stranger running through the area. It was not until later that he realized the suspect was his neighbor and that the boy was a hostage. He told CNN that the suspect had demanded the driver allow him to take two children. He went on to say:
"The one child he got a hold of actually fainted. That was the reason he was able to grab him. And now he is hidden in his homemade bomb shelter."Reaction to the Shooting
U.S. Representative Martha Roby (R-Dist.2) tweeted:
"We are all horrified at the news of a school bus shooting and possible abduction coming from south Dale County just north of Dothan. Let's be patient as law enforcement officers do their best to get to the bottom of this and bring the person responsible to justice. Let's also be prayerful, lifting up those affected in prayers for comfort and healing."
State Senator Harri Anne Smith stated:
"Please pray for the families whose hearts are broken tonight in Dale County. Special prayers for the brave bus driver's family who did his best to protect his children. Special prayers for 'Love Bug' the five year old son of a mother awaiting his safe return. Special prayers for the children who were on the bus who had to witness such a horrible act."
Midland City Mayor Virgil Skipper told AL.com:
"It's something you wouldn't think would happen here. It's stunned the community."Standoff Continues
Officials with the Alabama Highway Patrol, a police SWAT team, bomb squad officers and FBI agents continue to remain on the scene, along with the Dale County Sheriff's Department and Midland City Police Department. Negotiators are still speaking with the suspect. Law enforcement are providing only limited details at this time and it is unknown how long the hostage situation will continue.