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How the FBI Handled One of Its Toughest Hostage Cases

A 5-year-old boy's life hung in the balance
By Elizabeth Armstrong Moore,  Newser Staff
Posted Oct 18, 2015 7:45 AM CDT
Updated Oct 18, 2015 8:15 AM CDT
How the FBI Handled One of Its Toughest Hostage Cases
In this 2013 photo provided by the FBI, the underground bunker of Jimmy Lee Dykes who kept authorities at bay during a bunker hostage standoff, is measured, near Midland City, Ala.   (AP Photo/FBI)

When Jimmy Lee Dykes told a bus driver shortly before shooting him to death that he himself would die at the end of the ordeal, Dykes was right. But first he kidnapped a 5-year-old boy from the bus and held him hostage for a week in an underground bunker on his Alabama property before law enforcement was able to rescue the boy and kill Dykes. The 65-year-old was armed with a bomb and threatening to set it off if he couldn't tell his story. "It was one of the most difficult and dangerous hostage cases ever handled by the Federal Bureau of Investigation," reports the Wall Street Journal in its interactive coverage of the harrowing events that began to unfold with the killing of school bus driver Charles Poland on Jan. 29, 2013.

Thanks to access to audio and video recordings, drone images, private letters, and law enforcement documents, the Journal provides a detailed and at times graphic account of what it took the FBI to keep the boy alive in the bunker and ultimately swarm it successfully. A mock-up built above ground helped, though agents didn't foresee the steel cables that initially blocked their entrance and nearly foiled the rescue. Sheriff's deputy Bill Rafferty, who helped run the operation, received the FBI's Medal for Meritorious Achievement, its highest award for a non-agent. Rafferty, who wept when the boy was brought out of the bunker alive, keeps a photo of Ethan to this day. Dykes, known for his many grievances, particularly about gun laws, never told his story. Click for the full Journal report. (Read more FBI stories.)

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