Alabama News Network is learning more details about the dramatic hostage standoff in Dale County that drew international attention after officials say retired truck driver Jimmy Lee Dykes killed a bus driver before abducting a child and holing up in a bunker for nearly a week.
It's been more than a month since the standoff ended with five-year-old Ethan safely released. On Wednesday, about two dozen people gathered at a restaurant for a meeting of the Rotary Club in Brundidge to hear Dale County Sheriff Wally Olson speak about the week that changed his county.
"It was the toughest thing that I've ever, you know really endured," said Olson, who spent six nights at the command center along Highway 231 as negotiators worked to secure Ethan's safe release.
Law enforcement officials say Jimmy Lee Dykes killed bus driver Charles Poland before taking the kindergartner hostage. Olson says Dykes planned it for weeks, wiring explosives and storing supplies in his 6 by 8 feet bunker.
"Time went on, and we realized, you know, we're going to be here awhile, said Olson.
Olson didn't give many new details about the negotiations, but said Dykes told him he had a story to tell.
Six days after the standoff began, it ended, when law enforcement agents stormed the bunker and shot Dykes.
"We all stayed focused on one mission, and that was to bring Ethan home safely," said Olson.
Brundidge Police Chief Moses Davenport says small departments like his can learn a lot from the case.
"We just hope that nothing like this ever happens, but again, we realize that we do have resources that we can turn to," said Davenport.
And Olson says he doesn't want this to define Dale County forever. "We can't linger on this one incident. What we have to do is remember we have people to serve from now on, so we have to stay focused on that mission as well," said Olson.
Olson says law enforcement officers charged the bunker because they believed Ethan's life was in serious danger. He says they won't release exact details to protect future investigations.
Ethan turned six years old two days after being released from a bunker. An online fundraising campaign to send Ethan and his family to Disney World collected more than $10,000 within a week.