Tuesday, February 5, 2013

Greatest birthday' for boy rescued from Alabama bunker by FBI

Harri Anne Smith, a state senator in Alabama, has been in close contact with five-year-old Ethan's family since he was taken hostage last week. She said there are "lots of smiles" now that he's been freed and former FBI hostage negotiator Clint Van Zandt discusses the details of the case.
An Alabama boy is set for the "greatest" birthday of his life after being freed from a week's captivity in an underground bunker, a pastor said Tuesday.

The boy, snatched from a school bus in a fatal shooting, was rescued after a daring raid by FBI agents that left his kidnapper, Jimmy Lee Dykes, dead.
The 5-year-old, who is recovering in hospital, turns 6 on Wednesday.

“I would image it’s going to be the greatest birthday that family and that little boy has ever experienced and probably will ever experience,” local pastor Michael Senn told TODAY.

The boy was reunited with his mother and is "laughing, joking, playing, eating," said Special Agent in Charge Stephen Richardson at a press briefing Monday.

After a six-day standoff, a federal hostage team stormed an underground bunker in Alabama, where Jimmy Lee Dykes, 65, was holding five-year-old Ethan hostage. Ethan was freed safely, while Dykes was found dead. NBC's Gabe Gutierrez reports, and Dale County Sheriff Wally Olson and former FBI hostage negotiator Clint van Zandt discuss the case.

"He's very brave, he's very lucky. His success story is that he got out and he's doing great."
Richardson said the operation began when Dykes was seen holding a gun. "At this point, FBI agents, fearing the child was in imminent danger, entered the bunker and rescued the child.”

The Dothan Eagle newspaper reported that two loud blasts came from the scene shortly before 3:30 p.m. According to the report, an ambulance then drove up the private dirt road where Dykes’ homes is located and then left a short time later.

The blast apparently came from a "diversionary device," an FBI source confirmed to NBC News. FBI officers had lowered a camera into the bunker -- they would not reveal how, saying they may want to use the method in the future -- which allowed them to determine when to throw in the flash-bang to distract Dykes.That's when they entered through a door at the top of the bunker.

At the Monday night press briefing, Dale County Sheriff Wally Olson said that Dykes, 65, was harmed when officers entered the bunker but he would not say how the captor died. A law enforcement official told NBC News they are waiting for the medical examiner's report to determine how he died.

Authorities have not said how long they believe Dykes could have lasted underground, or discussed a motive for the kidnapping.

President Barack Obama also weighed in, calling FBI Director Robert Mueller to compliment his officers. 

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