Neighbors Speak About Suspect in Dale Co. Hostage Standoff


By Brittany Bivins

Law enforcement officials are still at the scene of a hostage standoff, where they've been for more than 24 hours, after a bus driver was killed and a child was taken Tuesday afternoon.

Authorities believe the shooter, who neighbors identify as Jimmy Lee Dykes, is holed up in a bunker on his property off Highway 231 in Midland City. On Wednesday, you could see SWAT teams near the bunker, which are reportedly trying to negotiate with the shooter.

On Tuesday night, law enforcement officials said they had been in communication with the hostage through a PVC pipe. They say they had "no reason" to believe the child had been harmed.

Law enforcement officials haven't given many additional details about the suspect, but neighbors say Dykes has a history of threatening people on his property. Ronda Wilbur, who lives across the street, said he threatened her and her granddaughter and beat her dog to death with a lead pipe.

"It was a result of my dog had gone to his side of the road, not even on his yard or anything, not even on his embankment, but he beat the dog, and he bragged to my husband about it," said Wilbur.

She says she often saw him out at night, digging near his bunker. "A lot of times, he's out there with his flashlight and rifle patrolling and looking at the bottom of the fence lines, the top of the fence lines, to see if there's anything live coming into his area."

People in Midland City say they're still shocked by the standoff. "Most of the folks around here are good folks, they look out for each other, we pay attention to what's going around, we see. I just can't believe something like that would happen around here," said Joe Spears, a neighbor.

The Dale County School Superintendent Donny Bynum released a statement, identifying the shooting victim as 66-year-old Charles Poland, who had been a driver with the school system for four years. "Mr. Poland was well-loved by all of us here at Dale County Schools...He was a valuable member of our transportation department, and we will forever remember him for the bravery he showed yesterday," the statement read in part.

According to witnesses, Poland tried to protect the children after Dykes boarded the bus. Poland was shot and killed at the scene.

Law enforcement officials have not released the name of the child. The Dale County Schools statement said he is a 6-year-old kindergartener.

Both Dale County Schools and Ozark City Schools will remain closed for the rest of the week. School administrators say they will have volunteer counselors available on Friday to help students dealing with the tragedy.