Alabama town gathers to bury bus driver slain in hostage-taking

An undated handout photo of school bus driver Charles Albert Poland Jr., provided by Dale County...

An undated handout photo of school bus driver Charles Albert Poland Jr., provided by Dale County Board of Education in Ozark, Alabama January 30, 2013. REUTERS/Dale County Board of Eductation/Handout

Nadine Alfa, Reuters

, Last Updated: 5:06 PM ET

MIDLAND CITY, ALA. - The small town of Midland City, Alabama prepared on Sunday to bury a school bus driver slain during the abduction of a child taken captive and held for a sixth day by a gunman in an underground bunker.

Police say Jimmy Lee Dykes fatally shot bus driver Charles Albert Poland Jr. on Tuesday, then abducted the 5-year-old boy from the bus and has been holding him inside his home-made shelter.

The FBI and other authorities have been trying to persuade Dykes, 65, a Vietnam War veteran and retired trucker, to surrender.

On Sunday, law enforcement officials and ambulance crews could be seen coming and going from the scene at Dykes' trailer home, where he dug the underground bunker in his backyard.

Poland, 66, was killed as he tried to protect the more than 20 other children on the bus during their ride home from school.

His funeral was scheduled for Sunday afternoon at the Ozark Civic Center, which is about 12 miles from Midland City.

A sign posted in Midland City on Saturday read, "RIP Mr. Poland. Once a warrior always a warrior."

The taking of a school child by an armed man comes against the backdrop of heightened concern about gun violence in America since the December shooting deaths of 20 children and six adults at a Connecticut elementary school.

Dale County Sheriff Wally Olson on Saturday thanked Dykes for "taking care of our child" and for allowing medicine, toys, coloring blocks and potato chips to be brought for the kindergartner.

Dykes assured authorities he had blankets and electric heaters in the bunker to protect the boy from cold overnight temperatures, Olson said.

Authorities also thanked Dykes for maintaining an open line of communication with them.

According to neighbours, Dykes moved into the area about two years ago and often was seen patrolling the property at night with a gun and a flashlight, although he kept to himself, several neighbours told reporters.

He had been scheduled to appear for a bench trial on Wednesday after his arrest last month on a menacing charge involving one of his neighbours.


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