Details emerge about man at center of Alabama standoff

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MIDLAND CITY, Ala. (AP) — As an Alabama standoff and hostage drama marked a sixth day Sunday, more details emerged about the suspect at the center, with neighbors and officials painting a picture of an isolated man estranged from his family.

Authorities say Jim Lee Dykes, 65 — a decorated veteran of the Vietnam War known as Jimmy to neighbors — gunned down a school bus driver and then abducted a 5-year-old boy from the bus, taking him to an underground bunker on his rural property. The driver, 66-year-old Charles Albert Poland Jr., was to be buried Sunday.

Mr. Dykes, described as a loner who railed against the government, lives up a dirt road outside this tiny hamlet north of Dothan in the southeast corner of the state. His home is just off the main road north to the state capital of Montgomery, about 80 miles away.

The FBI said in a statement Sunday that authorities continue to have an open line of communication with Mr. Dykes and that they planned to deliver to the bunker additional comfort items such as food, toys and medicine. They also said Mr. Dykes was making the child as comfortable as possible.

Mr. Dykes grew up in the Dothan area. Mel Adams, a Midland City Council member who owns the lot where reporters are gathered, said he has known Mr. Dykes since they were ages 3 and 4.

He said that Mr. Dykes has a sister and a brother but that he is estranged from his family.

Mr. Adams said he didn’t know what caused the falling-out but that “he had told part of his family to go to hell.”

Midland City Mayor Virgil Skipper said Mr. Dykes‘ sister is in a nursing home. Mr. Adams said law enforcement officers have talked to Mr. Dykes‘ family members and advised them not to speak with reporters, and that officers told her there was nothing she could do to help the child in the bunker.

Government records and interviews with neighbors indicate that Mr. Dykes joined the Navy in Midland City, serving on active duty from 1964 to 1969. His record shows several awards, including the Vietnam Service Medal and the Good Conduct Medal. During his service, Mr. Dykes was trained in aviation maintenance.

Mr. Adams said that, like Dykes, he is a Vietnam veteran but never was close with him. He said he recalls last seeing Mr. Dykes was in the 1980s, when he drove a truck for a company that laundered uniforms.

At some point after his time in the Navy, Mr. Dykes lived in Florida, where he worked as a surveyor and a long-haul truck driver. It’s unclear how long he stayed there.

He had some scrapes with the law in Florida, including a 1995 arrest for improper exhibition of a weapon. The misdemeanor was dismissed. He also was arrested for marijuana possession in 2000.

He returned to Alabama about two years ago, moving onto the rural tract about 100 yards from his nearest neighbors, Michael Creel and his father, Greg.

Neighbors described Mr. Dykes as a man who 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. Michael Creel said Mr. Dykes had an adult daughter, but the two lost touch years ago.

His property has a white trailer that, according to Mr. Creel, DMr. ykes said he bought from FEMA after it was used to house evacuees from Hurricane Katrina. The property also has a steel shipping container — like those on container ships — in which Mr. Dykes stores tools and supplies.

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