For the past week, the small town of Midland City, Alabama, was in a state of agonizing uncertainty over a 5-year-old special needs boy, simply known as Ethan, who’d been taken hostage. His captor, 65-year-old veteran Jimmy Lee Dykes, had brought the boy to an underground bunker on his property after shooting and killing the boy’s school bus driver.
On Monday, in a dramatic conclusion, the FBI stormed the bunker and freed the boy — and Dykes ended up dead. It was a meticulously planned mission that involved high-level officials, advanced equipment and days of training.
Here’s everything you need to know about the FBI’s raid on Dykes’ underground bunker:
1. Defense Secretary Panetta Approved Military Tactics & Personnel
After the dire seriousness of the situation was realized, Defense Secretary Leon Panetta approved the use of military tactics and personnel to remove the boy from the situation.
2. The FBI Built a Mock Bunker
The FBI built its own model bunker, based on what they believed the inside of Dykes’ bunker to look like, to train for all possible extraction scenarios for the boy. It must have taken considerable resources and effort to put all of this together, which is what the FBI’s HRT (Hostage Rescue Team) is known for. These kinds of situations often require FBI intervention because the bureau has many capabilities and resources not afforded to local law enforcement — like the ability to build model bunkers for training exercises.
3. The FBI Used a Spy Camera
One of the special FBI items used to survey the situation was a specialized spy camera that allowed law enforcement to observe the inside of the bunker. This camera ended up proving crucial to the success of the operation, because without it they likely would not have known that Dykes ended up going for a gun (which prompted them to raid the bunker).
4. FBI Trained for a Week for the Extraction
The people responsible for Ethan’s safe removal from the situation trained for most of a week to exhaust all possible scenarios they might have encountered. They used the mock bunker they’d built nearby to train, and it seems that it all paid off since the boy is safe with his family.
5. Ethan’s Mother Didn’t Want Dykes Killed
In a show of compassion, Ethan’s mother asked law enforcement that Dykes not be killed because he was “a sick man.” It appears that they were unable to grant her request.
6. The FBI Asked Media to Keep it Hush-Hush
As a part of their elaborate rescue strategy, the FBI asked the media not to report most of their strategy until after the ordeal had ended. The authorities knew that Dykes had access to cable television and Internet in his bunker, and as such they knew that if the media reported their tactics he’d be inclined to react. Luckily the media abided by their request, because Ethan’s safety depended on their cooperation.
7. FBI Used Flash-Bang Grenades for Diversion
Upon storming the bunker, the FBI deployed flash-bang grenades to distract Dykes so that they could rescue the boy. Their tactics worked, to great relief from the townspeople. Nearby witnesses reported hearing “booms” followed by “popping” sounds, which would later prove to be the flash-bangs likely followed by gunshots. The authorities haven’t confirmed or denied using firearms to kill Dykes, although speculation has led most to believe that they did.
8. The FBI Was Prepared to Wait Months
The authorities knew that Dykes had enough food and supplies to last himself and the boy for months, so they said they were prepared to wait that long, provided that no further harm was presented to Ethan. When they saw that Dykes had a firearm, they perceived it as enough of a threat to induce them to carry out the raid on the bunker.
9. President Obama Approves
President Obama called FBI Director Robert Mueller personally to express his gratitude for and satisfaction with the outcome of the situation. This issue no doubt comes close to the president’s heart, as a father and a staunch advocate of gun control.
10. The Bunker Had No Toilet
The bunker was very small, which is typical of most underground structures of its kind, but most provide a way for its occupants to relieve themselves. Dykes’ bunker had no toilet, and since the two were inside it for nearly a week it raises some questions as to how they dealt with this rather unsanitary problem. The authorities say they were prepared to wait for months to resolve the situation, but logistically the lack of a toilet would have caused some pretty major problems on that front.