MIDLAND CITY, Alabama // For six anguished days, people in a small Alabama town asked just one question about the young boy being held hostage in an underground bunker by a menacing, unpredictable neighbour: "Is he free yet?"
After FBI agents determined that talks with an increasingly agitated Jimmy Lee Dykes were breaking down, they finally stormed the wardrobe-sized hideout on Monday afternoon and freed the 5-year-old. The 65-year-old armed captor was killed, an official said.
Authorities had said they considered the child was in imminent danger when they decided to go in.
The boy's great uncle, Berlin Enfinger, yesterday said the child was relieved to be home after his ordeal and rescue. "He's happy to be home, and he looks good," he said.
Dykes grabbed the child from a school bus full of children on January 29 after shooting and killing the driver.
Authorities were yesterday carrying out an extensive investigation of the standoff site in Midland City where Dykes had built his bunker.
A town official, citing information from law enforcement agencies, said police had shot Dykes but federal authorities were declined to reveal the specifics of how they ended the standoff.
Authorities also kept under wraps the details of how they were able to monitor Dykes and the boy.
"We have a big crime scene behind us to process," said special agent Steve Richardson from the FBI's office in Mobile. "I can't talk about sources, techniques or methods that we used. But I can tell you the success story is the boy is safe."
Dykes had been seen with a gun, and officers concluded the boy was in imminent danger, he added.
Wally Olson, the Dale County sheriff, said Dykes was armed when officers entered the bunker.
Daryle Hendry, who lives near the bunker, said he heard a boom on Monday afternoon, followed by what sounded like a gunshot.
The boy was reunited with his mother and taken to a hospital to be checked out. Officials have said he has Asperger's syndrome and attention deficit hyperactivity disorder.
Neighbours described Dykes, an army veteran, as a nuisance who had once beaten a dog to death with a lead pipe, threatened to shoot children for setting foot on his property and patrolled his yard at night with a torch and a gun.