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Alabama town mourns for bus driver amid standoff

February 3, 2013 12:00:00 AM PST
The Alabama bus driver killed at the start of a multi-day hostage standoff was remembered for his acts of kindness.

Charles Albert Poland Jr. was mourned by hundreds who gathered at a funeral home not far from the underground bunker where police say an Alabama man is still holding a 5-year-old boy captive on Sunday.

Loved ones remembered Poland as a hero who gave his life to protect the children on the bus. The 66-year-old was driving a school bus carrying 21 children last Tuesday when an armed man boarded the bus and demanded two boys between 6 and 8 years old.

Poland tried to block his way, so the gunman shot him several times and abducted a 5-year-old boy. Police have identified the suspect as 65-year-old Jim Lee Dykes.

Investigators held a brief news conference Saturday, where they gave away very few details surrounding the ongoing situation. However, Dale County Sheriff Wally Olson did say that Dykes told officials he has blankets and an electric heater in the bunker, which authorities have likened to a tornado shelter, something common to this area of the South. That bunker is located on Dyke's property in rural Midland City.

Olson also said Dykes has allowed authorities to deliver coloring books, medication and toys for the boy via a ventilation pipe.

"I want to thank him for taking care of our boy," Olson said. "That's very important."

The sheriff would not say whether Dykes has made any demands, adding that he is limited in the details he can release.

The 5-year-old's mother has told officials that her child has Asperger's syndrome, an autism-like disorder, as well as attention deficit hyperactivity disorder, or ADHD.

Dykes was known around the neighborhood as a menacing figure who neighbors said once beat 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 flashlight and a firearm. He was due in court Wednesday to face charges he shot at neighbors in a dispute last month.

The Associated Press contributed to this report.


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