February 4th, 2013
10:30 PM ET

Officials: Rescued 5-year-old is 'laughing, joking, playing, eating'

A 5-year-old boy held hostage nearly a week is safe and the Alabama man who held him hostage is dead, law enforcement officials say.

[Update 10:30 p.m. ET] President Barack Obama called FBI Director Robert Mueller to compliment him for the role federal law enforcement officers played in resolving the hostage situation in Alabama today, a White House official told CNN. "The president praised the exceptional coordination between state, local, and federal partners, and thanked all the law enforcement officials involved during the nearly week-long ordeal for their roles in the successful rescue of the child."

[Update 10:17 p.m. ET] Law enforcement officials in Alabama expressed gratitude and relief at the successful conclusion of the week-long hostage ordeal in Midland City.

At a 9 p.m. news conference, Dale County Sheriff Wally Olson said getting the 5-year-old hostage out alive was the goal of everyone on the scene.

"This is a very special child," Olson said. "He's been through a lot, (and) by the grace of God he's OK. ...

"I'm a father, a lot of these men and women that's been sacrificing tireless hours, they're parents as well. It's a relief to be able to reunite mother and child."

The boy, whose name is Ethan, is with his mother at a local hospital, said Steve Richardson, special agent in charge of the FBI's Mobile regional office.

"Ethan is laughing, joking, playing, eating - the things you would expect a normal 5-year-old child to do," Richardson said.

The officials refused to divulge any details of the rescue operation, saying they expect to need to employ the same tactics in another situation someday in the future.

Olson said officials believed Ethan was in danger.

"That's why we went in - to save the child," he said.

[Update 5:46 p.m. ET]

Alabama Gov. Robert Bentley issued the following statement:

"Shortly after 3 p.m., I spoke with Col. Hugh McCall of the Department of Public Safety and Homeland Security Director Spencer Collier.  They informed me that law enforcement had breached the bunker, the child was safe and the abductor was killed.

"I want to thank the law enforcement, first responders and all additional personnel who worked tireless hours to bring this situation to a resolution.  They performed heroic efforts, and they should be praised for how they handled themselves in a professional manner.

"I am thankful that the child who was abducted is now safe.  I am so happy this little boy can now be reunited with his family and friends.  We will all continue to pray for the little boy and his family as they recover from the trauma of the last several days.

"At the same time, we also want to remember the family and friends of the bus driver - Charles Poland, Jr.  This man was a true hero who was willing to give up his life so others might live.  We are all inspired by his courage and bravery.

"I ask everyone across the state - and the nation - to continue to lift up these families and the entire Midland City community in your prayers."

[Earlier updates] Steve Richardson, the FBI's special agent in charge of the local office, said at a brief news conference that negotiations with Jimmy Lee Dykes had "deteriorated" during the past 24 hours, and that Dykes had been observed holding a gun.

At 3:12 p.m. CT, FBI agents entered the bunker and safely recovered the young hostage, Richardson said.

He said Dykes was dead and the child appeared to be physically unharmed. He did not say how Dykes died.

Richardson and other law enforcement officials declined to answer any questions.

The abducted boy, whose name is Ethan, has been taken to a hospital about eight miles from the place where he had been held hostage, Alabama Rep. Steve Clouse told CNN.

"Finally, this nightmare has come to an end," he said.

A neighbor of Dykes' said Monday he heard it end.

"I heard a big boom and then I heard, I believe I heard, rifle shots," Byron Martin told CNN. "Literally made me jump off the ground."

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Filed under: Alabama • Crime • U.S.
soundoff (68 Responses)
  1. maddy


    February 4, 2013 at 5:21 pm | Report abuse |
  2. Sarah

    Thank you Jesus that the child is safe!!

    February 4, 2013 at 5:21 pm | Report abuse |
    • Jennifer H


      February 4, 2013 at 5:24 pm | Report abuse |
    • Barack Obama

      Thank jesus for what the police did. Really?

      February 4, 2013 at 5:29 pm | Report abuse |
    • mrwhatwhatwhatyo

      yes, jesus saved the day. My only issue is I did not see a cape. every superhero has a cape. my other issue is why did jesus ignore the other children who were in trouble today. it is time for jesus to get a sidekick. mighty moses?

      February 4, 2013 at 5:37 pm | Report abuse |
    • meh

      If Jesus saved this boy, then Jesus killed the bus driver. Stop only attributing the good to your god.

      February 4, 2013 at 5:52 pm | Report abuse |
    • JRam


      February 4, 2013 at 5:53 pm | Report abuse |
    • brwolfcale

      @meh "If Jesus saved this boy, then Jesus killed the bus driver." Does that mean that if the FBI saved this boy, then the FBI killed the bus driver? Wait.. I'm so confused.

      February 4, 2013 at 6:16 pm | Report abuse |
  3. snel

    Oh thank God!

    February 4, 2013 at 5:22 pm | Report abuse |
  4. semper fi

    Polland is a Hero! Good end to a tragic event.

    February 4, 2013 at 5:22 pm | Report abuse |
  5. Lew

    Great news! That poor kid!!

    February 4, 2013 at 5:22 pm | Report abuse |
  6. cleareye1

    The negotiators deserve a lot of credit here.

    February 4, 2013 at 5:23 pm | Report abuse |
  7. Kaizer777

    Hoorah! Thank you Sheriffs for your persistence and resilience. America is proud of you and that heroic bus driver. Good news at LAST!

    February 4, 2013 at 5:23 pm | Report abuse |
  8. John Lubeck

    You must be one of those NRA gun whackos that is criminally irresponsible and responsible for the deaths of 20 1st grade kids.

    February 4, 2013 at 5:24 pm | Report abuse |
    • montani42

      Lubeck, you must be one of those sick twisted liberals to call members of the NRA whackos and try to blame the killings carried out by an insane person on people that enjoy the shooting sports, want to defend their families, and want to protect their 2nd Amendment rights. You may not realize it, but thousands of police men and women, military members, federal agents, ministers, teachers, and other patriotic Americans are part of the now nearly 5 million members of this great historic organization. The NRA has one of the most successful gun safety programs for children in the nation too. There are 110,000,000 gun owners in this country. The people that live in liberal areas of this country and want everyone to be like sheep, unarmed and unable to defend themselves, helped make our schools killing zones by convincing law makers to make schools "gun free zones". Only honest people abide by the law criminals and insane people never will. Gun free zones allow both to carry out killings without having to worry about someone shooting back.

      February 4, 2013 at 6:04 pm | Report abuse |
    • Horace

      The problem is that the NRA routinely opposes the types of screening requirements that would get guns out of the hands of the deranged and insane.

      Switzerland has shown with proper controls safe gun ownership is possible. But the NRA continually opposes the controls that would make this possible.

      February 4, 2013 at 10:49 pm | Report abuse |
    • Fantom65

      Everyone involved , you did a fantastic job. I'm retired law enforcement and I know they worked hard to resolve this and they did the only way possible. John, an unarmed bus driver didn't stop him, 6 days of talking didn't stop him, all the gun laws didn't stop him, ..........good guys with guns did. Thank you FBI

      February 4, 2013 at 11:37 pm | Report abuse |
  9. Breeder_Charizard

    Im glad hes safe. Id like to know how it happened

    February 4, 2013 at 5:25 pm | Report abuse |
  10. religion&politics

    Thank goodness! Too bad the old loon had to die, but MUCH better him than the little kid!

    February 4, 2013 at 5:31 pm | Report abuse |
  11. Vincent d


    February 4, 2013 at 5:34 pm | Report abuse |
  12. sammmmmm

    Poor kid missed the super bowl...

    February 4, 2013 at 5:36 pm | Report abuse |
  13. i bet

    I bet it turns out that this guy was one of those Alex Jones/Ron Paul libertarian conspiracy theorist

    February 4, 2013 at 5:40 pm | Report abuse |
  14. dazzle ©

    Good news all the way around.

    February 4, 2013 at 5:41 pm | Report abuse |
  15. AMS

    Nice to know the kid is safe. I hope there is gun control nationwide. If NRA keeps bribing politicians, it will just increase violence and hurt more innocent people.

    February 4, 2013 at 5:46 pm | Report abuse |
    • montani42

      You can't get much more gun control than they have in Chicago and Washington D.C. ! It really has stopped all the shootings there hasn't it? Yet places where the majority of the population is armed has lower crime rates. West Virginia has one of the highest per capita gun ownership rates in the USA and has one of the lowest crime rates. When a home invasion takes place here, usually the invaders go away in a body bag. In Australia, where the people didn't protect their rights to fire arms, home invasions have increased 29% since the majority of guns were destroyed. Again, criminals WILL get guns no matter what. Disarming law abiding American citizens is just plain ignorant.

      February 4, 2013 at 6:11 pm | Report abuse |
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