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February 4, 2013

Details emerge about man in Alabama standoff

MIDLAND CITY, Ala. — As an Alabama standoff and hostage drama marked a sixth day Sunday, more details emerged about the suspect at the center, with neighbors and officials painting a picture of an isolated man estranged from his family.

Authorities say Jim Lee Dykes, 65 — a decorated Vietnam-era veteran known as Jimmy to neighbors — gunned down a school bus driver and abducted a 5-year-old boy from the bus, taking him to an underground bunker on his rural property. The driver, 66-year-old Charles Albert Poland Jr., was buried Sunday.

Dykes, described as a loner who railed against the government, lives up a dirt road outside this tiny hamlet north of Dothan in the southeastern corner of the state. His home is just off the main road north to the state capital of Montgomery.

The FBI said authorities continue to have an open line of communication with Dykes. The little boy requested Cheez-Its and a red Hot Wheels car, both of which were delivered to the bunker. Authorities had said they also were delivering medicine and other comfort items, and that Dykes was making the child as comfortable as possible.

In the nearby community of Ozark on Sunday, more than 500 people filed into the Civic Center to pay a final tribute to Poland, who was being hailed as a hero for protecting the other children on the school bus before he was shot Tuesday.

Poland is now “an angel who is watching over” the little boy, said Dale County School Superintendent Donny Bynum, who read letters written by three students who had ridden on Poland’s bus. “You didn’t deserve to die but you died knowing you kept everyone safe,” one child wrote.

Outside the funeral, school buses from several counties lined the funeral procession route. The buses had black ribbons tied to their side mirrors.

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