The 5-year-old boy held hostage in a nearly week-long standoff in Alabama is in good spirits and apparently unharmed after being reunited with his family at a hospital, according to his family and law enforcement officials.
The boy, identified only as Ethan, was rescued by the FBI Monday afternoon after they rushed the underground bunker where suspect Jimmy Lee Dykes, 65, was holding him. Dykes was killed in the raid and the boy was taken away from the bunker in an ambulance.
Who Is Jimmy Lee Dykes?
Officials have not yet provided any further details on the raid, citing the ongoing investigation.
“I’ve been to the hospital,” FBI Special Agent Steve Richardson told reporters Monday night. “I visited with Ethan. He is doing fine. He’s laughing, joking, playing, eating, the things that you would expect a normal 5- to 6-year-old young man to do. He’s very brave, he’s very lucky, and the success story is that he’s out safe and doing great.”
Ethan is expected to be released from the hospital later today and head home where he will be greeted by birthday cards from his friends at school. Ethan will celebrate his 6th birthday Wednesday.
Officials were able to insert a high-tech camera into the 6-by-8-foot bunker to monitor Dykes’ movements, and they became increasingly concerned that he might act out, a law enforcement source with direct knowledge told ABC News Monday. FBI special agents were positioned near the entrance of the bunker and used an explosive charge to gain access and neutralize Dykes.
“Within the past 24 hours, negotiations deteriorated and Mr. Dykes was observed holding a gun,” the FBI’s Richardson said. “At this point, the FBI agents, fearing the child was in imminent danger, entered the bunker and rescued the child.”
Richardson said it “got tough to negotiate and communicate” with Dykes, but declined to give any specifics.
After the raid was complete, FBI bomb technicians checked the property for improvised explosive devices, the FBI said in a written statement Monday afternoon.
The FBI had created a mock bunker near the site and had been using it to train agents for different scenarios to get Ethan out, sources told ABC News.
Former FBI special agent and ABC News consultant Brad Garrett said rescue operators in this case had a delicate balance.
“You have to take into consideration if you’re going to go in that room and go after Mr. Dykes, you have to be extremely careful because any sort of device you might use against him, could obviously harm Ethan because he’s right there,” he said.
Still, Monday’s raid was not the ending police had sought as they spent days negotiating with the decorated Vietnam veteran through a ventilation shaft. The plastic PVC pipe was also used to send the child comfort items, including a red Hot Wheels car, coloring books, cheese crackers, potato chips and medicine.
State Sen. Harri Anne Smith said Ethan’s mother asked police a few days ago not to kill Dykes.
“She put her hand on the officer’s heart and said, ‘Sir, don’t hurt him. He’s sick,’” Smith said Monday.
Taylor Hodges, pastor of the Midland City Baptist Church, said, “Many people here don’t keep their doors locked. Things are going to change, especially for our school system.”
The outcome of the situation drew praise from the White House.