Steve Richardson with the FBI's office in Mobile said at a news conference Monday afternoon that negotiations had deteriorated with 65-year-old Jimmy Lee Dykes. Dykes, who a week earlier had abducted the child from a school bus after fatally shooting the driver, had been seen with a gun, and officers believed the boy was in imminent danger, Richardson said.
Officers stormed the bunker just after 3 p.m. CST to rescue the child, who was taken to a hospital in nearby Dothan. Officials have said the child has Asperger's syndrome.
However, it was not immediately clear how Dykes died.
Melissa Nighton, the city clerk in Midland City, said a woman had been praying in the town center Monday afternoon. Not long after, the mayor called her with news that Dykes was dead and that the boy was safe.
"She must have had a direct line to God because shortly after she left, they heard the news," Nighton said.
Neighbors described 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.
Government records and interviews with neighbors indicate that 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, Dykes was trained in aviation maintenance.
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.
Daryle Hendry, who lives about a quarter-mile from where Dykes' bunker was located, said he heard a boom Monday afternoon, followed by what sounded like a gunshot, all around the time officials said they stormed the bunker.
The bus driver who was killed, Charles Albert Poland Jr., was hailed as a hero. People who knew him said his actions prevented the nearly two-dozen other children on the bus from being harmed.