A police standoff with a man accused of holding a five-year-old boy hostage in an underground bunker in Alabama has entered its fifth day, with authorities saying little except that their talks with the 65-year-old loner were continuing through a ventilation pipe.
Negotiators were still trying on Saturday to persuade Jimmy Lee Dykes to surrender. Police have said they believe the Vietnam-era veteran fatally shot a schoolbus driver on Tuesday, and then abducted the boy from the bus and disappeared into the home-made bunker.
While police were mostly staying mum about the delicate negotiations, it fell to neighbours to fill in the blanks about Dykes, described by some as a menacing figure who held anti-government views.
One of Dykes’ next-door neighbours said the suspect spent two or three months constructing the bunker, digging into the ground and then building a structure of lumber and plywood, which he covered with sand and dirt.
Neighbour Michael Creel said Dykes put the plastic pipe underground from the bunker to the end of his driveway so he could hear if anyone drove up to his gate. When Dykes finished the shelter a year or so ago, he invited Creel to see it - and he did.
‘‘He was bragging about it. He said, ’Come check it out’,’’ Creel said.
He said he believes Dykes’ goal with the standoff is to publicise his political beliefs.
‘‘I believe he wants to rant and rave about politics and government,’’ Creel said. ‘‘He’s very concerned about his property. He doesn’t want his stuff messed with.
’’Police have used a ventilation pipe to the bunker to talk to the man and deliver the boy medication for his emotional disorders, but they have not revealed how often they are in touch or what the conversations have been about.
Authorities waited until Friday to confirm the suspect’s identity.While much of what is going on inside the bunker remains a mystery, local officials who have spoken to police or the boy’s family have described a small room with food, electricity and a TV.
And while the boy has his medication, an official also said he has been crying for his parents.
Meanwhile, Midland City residents held out hope that the standoff would end safely and mourned for the slain bus driver and his family. Candlelight vigils have been held nightly at a gazebo in front of City Hall.