MIDLAND CITY, Ala. - A hostage standoff continued into the third day Thursday in rural Alabama where a man who kidnapped a 5-year-old boy from a school bus after killing the driver.
The kidnapper, described as an anti-government survivalist, is keeping the child hostage in an underground bunker at his home, which is surrounded by police and SWAT teams.
Asked how long the standoff would last, Dale County Sheriff Wally Olson told reporters early Thursday, "We have no way of knowing that right now."
Dale County authorities said the child appeared to be on good condition, despite the ordeal.
"We have no reason to believe that the child has been harmed," Olson said.
State Rep. Steve Clouse, who met with authorities and visited the boy's family, said that the bunker had food and electricity, and that the boy was watching TV.
School bus driver Charles Poland Jr., 66, was shot dead Tuesday afternoon when he refused the gunman's demand that he turn over two of the 21 children aboard.
Authorities communicated with the suspect through a PVC pipe connected to the bunker, WSFA-TV reported, and were also able to pass some unidentified medicine for the boy.
Local residents attended vigils at several churches Wednesday night, lighting candles and praying for the boy's safe release, according to WSFA-TV.
A law enforcement official who is not authorized to speak to the media identified the man as Jimmy Lee Dykes, 65, a retired truck driver and Navy veteran.
"As far as we know there is no relation at all (between Dykes and the hostage). He just wanted a child for a hostage situation," said Michael Senn, a pastor who helped comfort traumatized children after the attack.
Sheriff's deputies had arrested Dykes on Dec. 22 and charged him with menacing for a Dec. 10 complaint, court records show. He spent four days in jail before posting the $500 bail.
His trial was to have begun Wednesday at 9 a.m.
Instead, he is accused of grabbing a 5-year-old boy off a school bus Tuesday afternoon after killing the 66-year-old bus driver, Charles Poland, who had tried to block access to the vehicle.
Patricia Smith, a neighbor whose two children were on the bus, said the gunman shot Poland four times and fled with the 5-year-old. The suspect then took the boy to a homemade bunker that he had apparently been constructing for years on his nearby property.
Authorities said Dykes lives in a small trailer at the end of a red dirt road, but they gave few details about the hostage standoff or whether Dykes had made any demands.
The Dale County Sheriff's Office reports Dykes is connected to the anti-government survivalist movement.
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