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February 4, 2013

Authorities storm rescue boy from Alabama bunker

MIDLAND CITY, Ala. — Authorities stormed an underground bunker Monday in Alabama, freeing a 5-year-old boy who had been held hostage for nearly a week in the tiny backyard shelter and leaving the boy’s abductor dead.

After days of fruitless negotiations, talks had deteriorated with an increasingly agitated Jimmy Lee Dykes, who had kidnapped the child from a school bus after fatally shooting the driver.

Dykes had been seen with a gun, and officers concluded the boy was in imminent danger, said Steve Richardson of the FBI’s office in Mobile.

Officials refused to say how the 65-year-old died.

“Ever since this started, there’s never been a moment that (the boy) wasn’t on my mind,” said Michael Senn, pastor of a church near where reporters had been camped out since the standoff began. “So when I heard that he was OK, it was just like a thousand pounds lifted off of me.”

The rescue capped a long drama that drew national attention to this town of 2,400 people nestled amid peanut farms and cotton fields that has long relied on a strong Christian faith, a policy of “love thy neighbor” and the power of group prayer. The child’s plight prompted nightly candlelight vigils.

Throughout the ordeal, authorities had been speaking with Dykes though a plastic pipe that went into the shelter. They also sent food, medicine and other items into the bunker, which apparently had running water, heat and cable television but no toilet. It was about 4 feet underground, with about 50 square feet of floor space.

Authorities said the kindergartner appeared unharmed. He was taken to a hospital in nearby Dothan. Officials have said he has Asperger’s syndrome and attention deficit hyperactivity disorder.

FBI bomb technicians were clearing the property for explosive devices and planned to look more closely at the scene when it’s safe, FBI spokesman Jason Pack said.

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