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State News

June 3, 2013

Audio: Bus driver defied gunman in bunker drama

MIDLAND CITY, Ala. —

A six-day bunker hostage standoff in Alabama began with a school bus driver stubbornly refusing to hand over children as hostages despite threats from the gunman who killed him moments later, according to newly released recordings.

"It's my responsibility to keep these kids on the bus. I can't turn them over to somebody else," bus driver Charles Poland said in a recording aired Friday by ABC News.

Days of tense talks between federal authorities and Jimmy Lee Dykes included the 65-year-old suspect cursing negotiators and ranting that his stand with his 5-year-old hostage would cause "chaos" in society and lead to riots, the recordings reveal.

"People are going be standing up to this (expletive) dictatorial, incompetent, self-righteous, bunch of sorry bastards in government," Dykes said in recordings obtained by ABC News.

Members of an FBI hostage rescue team stormed Dykes' underground bunker near Midland City in early February, killing the man before he harmed Ethan Gilman or detonated an improvised explosive that authorities said was in the 6-foot by 8-foot shelter.

The FBI confirmed the existence of the recordings but declined to immediately release the material to The Associated Press.

In interviews with ABC, FBI agents said they decided to raid the bunker after it became apparent that Dykes was handling weapons and an improvised explosive device inside the shelter more often than he had been at the beginning of the standoff.

Dykes apparently planned to have the child detonate the bomb if he was killed, said FBI Special Agent Steve Richardson.

"Jim Dykes relayed to the negotiators, 'If anything happens to me, I have told Ethan to pull the trigger,'" Richardson said. "That meant he had told Ethan to detonate the IED, the second IED that was inside the bunker."

Dykes snatched Ethan off a school bus driven by Charles Poland, 66, in late January, dragging the child into the bunker after fatally shooting Poland aboard the bus loaded with children.

The audio recording, taken from a bus surveillance tape, indicated Dykes boarded and immediately demanded children.

"I need two boys 6 to 8 years old," Dykes, armed with a handgun, is heard saying angrily in the recording. "Six to 8 years old. I mean it. Right now! Right now!"

Poland refused. "I can't do it," he responded. Seconds later, Poland said, "Sorry, you're going to have to shoot me."

"How about I shoot a kid then," Dykes replied.

Poland refused again, saying it was his "responsibility to keep these kids on the bus."

Dykes shot Poland dead moments later, and a student on the bus called 911 to alert authorities. Poland has since been widely hailed as a hero for protecting nearly two dozen students who were on board.

Once in the bunker with the child, Dykes communicated with authorities through a pipe and by phone. The recordings show he was disdainful of government and taunted negotiators with obscenities.

Authorities previously have said Dykes wanted to make a public statement about his complaints against the government but never revealed specific topics. The recording indicated he believed he could spark anarchy.

"You know goddamn well what I'd say when I go public," Dykes said. "It's going to create chaos. It's going to create riots. ... People are going be standing up to this (expletive) dictatorial, incompetent, self-righteous, bunch of sorry bastards in government."

Dykes' motive is still unclear, although he was due in court the day after the school bus confrontation on a charge of firing a weapon at neighbors.

Ethan, who turned 6 shortly after his release, was freed without any physical injuries.

 

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