February 4 (RIA Novosti) A child was rescued and the Vietnam veteran suspected of kidnapping him and holding him in an underground bunker for more than a week in Alabama was killed Monday when police took action to end a bizarre hostage crisis that became a focal point of US media coverage.
“FBI agents safely recovered the child who has been held hostage for a week,” Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) agent Steve Richardson announced at a media briefing hastily convened along a highway near the rural site of the drama and broadcast on US cable news channels.
“The child appears physically unharmed … The subject is deceased,” Richardson said, referring to 65-year-old Jimmy Lee Dykes, the man who had been holding the five-year-old boy hostage in an underground cell in a cotton field outside the town of Midland City.
Richardson said the decision for police to take action to end the week-long standoff was made after negotiations with Dykes “deteriorated” over the past day and he was seen holding a gun.
“FBI agents, fearing the child was in imminent danger, entered the bunker and rescued the child,” he said.
Local media said the boy had been taken to a hospital but was in good condition.
Americans had uneasily watched the drama unfold day by day, relying on information relayed by reporters standing along the highway at a distance from the field where the bunker was located and on computer drawings depicting what the situation underground may roughly have looked like.
The town of Midland City, population 2,400, was meanwhile transformed into a massive national media staging ground, producing some unusual scenes such as a local church reportedly hosting a barbecue for camped-out journalists at which FBI agents bearing fried chicken also showed up.
"We're devastated this could happen here. We don't know what to think," Winifred Ramsey, a retired insurance agent and local resident, was quoted by The Associated Press (AP) as saying before police moved to end the standoff.
The episode began last Tuesday when Dykes allegedly boarded a school bus carrying young children and demanded the driver hand over two of them.
Instead, the driver opened the emergency exit at the rear of the bus so children could escape and blocked Dykes’ path. The school bus driver was shot dead and Dykes allegedly fled with one of the children to the underground bunker on his property.