The 5-year-old boy held hostage for a week in an underground bunker is safe and his alleged kidnapper is dead as the standoff in rural Alabama came to an end on Monday.
Upon his rescue, the child, who has been identified by his first name, Ethan, was taken to a nearby hospital and appeared to be unharmed. Ethan, who will turn 6 on Wednesday, has been reunited with his mother, according to reports.
“I have been to the hospital, I have visited with Ethan,” FBI Special Agent Steve Richardson told reporters. “He is doing fine. He’s laughing, joking, playing, eating, the things you would expect a normal 5- to 6-year-old young man to do. He’s very brave, he’s very lucky. And the success story is that he is out safe and doing great.”
Richardson said negotiations had broken down with the kidnapper, who was “observed holding a gun.” News outlets report that there was a camera inside the bunker by which authorities could see Ethan and his abductor.
Believing the child was in danger, an FBI team entered the bunker at 3:12 p.m. CT Monday and rescued Ethan.
Reporters heard an explosion that may have been a concussion grenade and then saw ambulances and fire trucks head to the scene, CBS News reports.
The ordeal began Jan. 29 when a gunman identified as Jimmy Lee Dykes, 65, a Navy veteran and retired truck driver, boarded a school bus and demanded that the youngsters be turned over to him.
Bus driver Charles Albert Poland died a hero after he refused Dykes’s demand and was fatally shot. All but Ethan escaped, winding up in the earthen bunker with Dykes on his property.
During the standoff, authorities maintained contact with Dykes and, through a pipe, got coloring books and medication to Ethan, who reportedly has Asperger’s syndrome and attention deficit hyperactivity disorder.
Asked whether it could be said Ethan saw two men die this week, Dale County Sheriff Wally Olson said, “He’s a very special child. He’s been through a lot. He’s been doing a lot. By the grace of God, he’s okay. And that was the mission of every man and woman on this compound, every law enforcement officer, every first responder, all of the community who has prayed to bring him home safely.”
• With reporting by DEVAN STUART