MIDLAND CITY, Alabama (AP) — Police teams swarmed a rural U.S. property Wednesday where a man accused of fatally shooting the driver of a school bus and fleeing with a 6-year-old passenger was thought to be hiding in a homemade bunker. Neighbors were evacuated, and one said she had been startled this week by the suspect’s stare.
The man boarded the bus in Midland City, Alabama, on Tuesday afternoon and shot the driver when he refused to let the child off, Dale County Sheriff Wally Olsen told WBMA-TV.
The shooter then took the child, authorities said.
County coroner Woodrow Hilboldt told The Associated Press the standoff continued early Wednesday.
“That’s what has been described to me as an underground bunker. Someplace to get out of the way of a tornado,” Hilboldt said.
Neighbors said the rural property belonged to Jimmy Lee Dykes, a man in his 60s.
Court records showed Dykes had been scheduled to appear in court Wednesday morning to face a charge of menacing neighbors as they drove by his house last month. The neighbors said he yelled and fired shots over damage he claimed their truck did to a makeshift speed bump in the dirt road.
About 50 vehicles from law enforcement agencies were clustered at the mouth of that road Wednesday. Reporters were being held back from the area and couldn’t see the home.
The coroner said the victim died of multiple gunshot wounds. The Dale County Sheriff’s Office named the victim as 66-year-old Charles Albert Poland, Jr.
Dale County Schools Superintendent Donny Bynum said Poland was a hero who gave his life to protect 21 students. He said authorities including the FBI “are doing everything within their powers to see to the safe release of this six year-old Kindergarten student.”
Nearby residents were evacuated from their homes as a precaution, said Rachel David, a spokeswoman for the police department in the nearby town of Dothan.
“Authorities also confirmed the presence of a child at the scene but are giving no further information at this time,” David said in a news release late Tuesday.
Claudia Davis, who lives on the road where the standoff was taking place, said Wednesday that she and her neighbors couldn’t leave because the one road was blocked by police.
Davis, 54, said she has had run-ins with the suspect.
“Before this happened, I would see him at several places and he would just stare a hole through me,” Davis said. “On Monday, I saw him at a laundromat and he seen me when I was getting in my truck, and he just started and stared and stared at me.”
Michael Creel, who lives on the road where the shooting happened, said he went outside after his sister heard gunshots.
“Me and her started running down the road,” Creel told the Dothan Eagle newspaper. “That’s when I realized the bus had its siren going off. Kids were filing out, running down the hill toward the church.”
Midland City police would not comment, and a dispatcher at the Dale City Sheriff’s office said the agency was not releasing any immediate details.
Copyright 2013 The Associated Press.