Ethan Gilman was a 5-year-old boy who was kidnapped off of his school bus in Alabama in 2013. A man named Jimmy Lee Dykes was on a mission to take hostages to use as pawns in an effort to share his grievance against the U.S. government with the world, according to the press release from CBS News.
Ahead of the premiere of The FBI Declassified, which debuts with an episode about Gilman’s kidnapping and the subsequent FBI standoff, here’s what you need to know about the case and what happened to Gilman.
Gilman and His Mother Spoke to Dr. Phil Immediately Following the Incident
About a week after his rescue, Gilman and his mother appeared on Dr. Phil to talk with Phil McGraw about what Gilman went through. He hadn’t been back to school yet and was having trouble sleeping, though because of his young age he did not seem to fully grasp what had happened to him.
“I think he understands that there was a very violent act, and it scared him greatly,” said McGraw.
Since then, Gilman’s life was fairly tumultuous for a few years before stabilizing in 2016 when he was adopted by the Rev. Brandon Turner and his wife, Nicci, according to the Dothan Eagle.
Apparently, Gilman had been in and out of the state foster care system prior to his kidnapping. Then afterward, he was in his mother Jennifer Kirkland’s care briefly, then his grandmother cared for him until her death, and then his 18-year-old brother cared for him for a period of time.
But eventually, Houston County Department of Human Resources Program Supervisor Judy Walding was able to get Gilman adopted by the Turners, who had known Gilman as a baby through the Foster Care Respite Care Program.
“Our plan was if his mom didn’t get him back, we would see about adopting him,” said Brandon Turner. “We just fell in love with him.”
The Turners adopted Gilman in 2016 and while the boy has not been without some struggles, they told the Dothan Eagle that it has been wonderful.
“When Ethan came to us, he was on a lot of medication three times a day,” Nicci Turner said. “Now he takes two pills once in the morning. Yes, at first we had a few issues with him in school, but that was just Ethan needing to get settled in. He had been through a lot. Within a short period of time, he had adjusted and was just like any other child. He is just like any other 11-year-old boy. He is happy. He is thriving in school and enjoying life with his nine other adopted siblings. But most importantly, Ethan is a loving child, and he is a child who is loved. That’s what we want all of our children to know — they are loved.”
For his part, Ethan, who is now legally Ethan Turner, told the Eagle that he remembers “some stuff about what happened, but not a lot.”
“I remember right before I was rescued, I had just opened a toy. I remember the bus driver, Mr. Poland. He was very nice to all of us. That day, he tried to drive off, but he couldn’t,” said Ethan, adding that he wanted to relay a message to everyone who prayed for his safe release, “I am OK. I am happy. I enjoy playing with my brothers and sisters. I like to ride my bike. I like to jump on the trampoline and really enjoy playing with Legos and K’nex. I hope I get some for my birthday.”
Dykes Killed the School Bus Driver, Who Died a Hero
On January 29, 2013, Jimmy Lee Dykes boarded a school bus full of children in Midland City, Alabama, and shot and killed the driver, then kidnapped 5-year-old Ethan Gilman. In an audio recording of the kidnapping obtained by ABC News, driver Charles Poland can be heard protecting the children when Dykes demanded he hand over two boys ages six to eight years old.
“Sorry, you’re going to have to shoot me,” said Poland, adding, “It’s my responsibility to keep these kids on the bus. I can’t turn them over to somebody else.”
As Poland stood his ground in the face of Dykes, 15-year-old Tre Watts crouched behind a bus seat and called 911, telling the dispatcher that a man with a gun is on board and “keeps asking for kids.”
Then on the 911 recording, you can hear gunshots and children screaming. Watts told the 911 dispatcher he thought Mr. Poland was dead. Poland was shot five times and died at 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 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.”
Dykes Took Gilman to an Underground Bunker
After shooting Poland, Dykes, a Navy veteran who was due in court that very day on charges of shooting at one his neighbors, grabbed Gilman and took him to an elaborate underground bunker that he had spent months fortifying, reported CBS News.
“Kidnappings are incredibly difficult for a number of different reasons,” Steve Richardson, the FBI special agent in charge of the case, said in the press release. “There’s a child’s life at stake. … Emotions are high. … Time is of the essence.”
Richardson also told ABC News that they “thought Ethan was going to die.”
“Our negotiators, our behavioral science folks, behavioral analysis folks told us the best you can hope for is a murder-suicide,” he said.
Indeed, 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.
The standoff lasted nearly a week, with Dykes going on anti-government rants.
At one point, he said that when he went public, it would “create riots” and “chaos” and people “are going to be standing up to this [expletive] dictatorial, incompetent, self-righteous, bunch of sorry bastards in government.”
His wish was to die by suicide with a female reporter down in the bunker holding his hand and relaying his final message. By day six of the standoff, Dykes had taught the kidnapped little boy how to detonate the IED inside the bunker and the FBI decided it was time to get in there.
During the raid, Dykes detonated a perimeter bomb, but miraculously, neither Gilman nor any FBI agents were seriously injured. Dykes was shot and killed by the FBI.
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.