Jimmy Lee Dykes was a Navy veteran with anti-government grievances who, in January 2013, decided the best way to make his message public was to kidnap two young boys off of a school bus at gunpoint and take them to an underground bunker he had spent months preparing.
Ahead of the FBI Declassified episode about Dykes’ kidnapping and standoff with the FBI, here’s what you need to know about what happened to him.
The FBI Killed Dykes When They Raided His Bunker
On January 29, 2013, Dykes boarded a school bus full of children and kidnapped 5-year-old Ethan Gilman. He wanted two children, but due to the heroism of both the bus driver and a 15-year-old student, Dykes only had time to grab Gilman and run. He took Gilman to his underground bunker that was wired with explosives and kept him there for nearly a week.
During the standoff with the FBI, Dykes continually ranted and railed against the U.S. government, saying he hoped his story would “create riots” and get people “to be standing up to this [expletive] dictatorial, incompetent, self-righteous, bunch of sorry bastards in government,” according to ABC News.
Dykes’ plan was to die by suicide and he hoped a female reporter would be down in the bunker with him to hold his hand and relay his final message when he did it. Finally, after six days, Dykes started teaching little Gilman how to detonate the bombs he had wired to the bunker and the FBI knew it was time to get in there before he killed himself and Gilman.
It was a delicate operation, however, because the bunker was wired with explosives that “could not only kill himself and the little boy, but could kill us as first responders and bomb technicians,” FBI bomb technician Al Mattox told ABC News.
During the raid, a perimeter bomb was detonated, but miraculously, neither Gilman nor any of the agents were seriously injured. Dykes was shot and killed by the raid team.
The Bus Driver Died a Hero
Charles Poland was the bus driver who sacrificed himself to save the children in his care. In a recording of the 911 call obtained by ABC News, Poland can be heard telling Dykes that Dykes would just “have to shoot” Poland because he was not letting Dykes get to the children.
Dykes shot Poland five times and Poland died on the scene. FBI Special Agent Steve Richardson praised Poland, telling ABC News that Dykes “could’ve taken several kids if it were not for the specific actions of Chuck Poland.”
Richardson later told CBS News, “If my kids were on the school bus, I would want someone like Charles Poland defending them. He said you can’t do this, I will not let you take the children.”
In an interview with the Dothan Eagle, Poland’s widow Jan said he “loved” the kids he drove to and from school.
“He loved them. He loved everybody and he was loved,” Poland said. She also told ABC News she was “very proud” of her husband for saving those kids, but if she had him now, she “would not let him go for a good, long time.”
“Cherish every second you have now because you are not promised tomorrow,” Poland’s daughter Lydia Hancock told the Eagle. “Love them while they’re here.”
The 911 Caller Was Also Praised for His Quick Thinking
Tre Watts, a 15-year-old student who was on the bus that day was the one who called 911. He crouched behind a seat and used his cell phone to alert authorities. On the recording, you can hear gunshots and children screaming as Watts tells the dispatcher what is happening on the bus.
FBI Agent Richardson also praised Watts, saying he hopes that “as a 23-year law enforcement veteran, that [he] could have performed as good as the 15-year-old young man did when he dialed 911… unbelievable.”
On the FBI Declassified episode, CBS News caught up with Watts, who is now 22 years old. He recounted that day and how Mr. Poland tried to save them.
“It was a normal day, just like any other. … I feel a big lurch on the bus I look up and I notice a guy is on the bus and he has a gun pointed at Mr. Poland’s head … he just kept saying over and over, ‘I need the kids, I need the kids, I need the kids.’ … Mr. Poland tries to pull off and the guy shot him,” said Watts.
After the ordeal was over, Alabama named the stretch of road that runs past Destiny Church the “Charles Poland Jr. Memorial Highway” and the National Association for Pupil Transportation gave Watts an award for his coolheaded 911 call from the bus, according to the Wall Street Journal.
Narrated by Alana De La Garza of the CBS drama series FBI, The FBI Declassified airs Tuesdays at 10 p.m. Eastern and Pacific on CBS.