How Did Jimmy Lee Dykes Die?

October 6, 2020
4 min read

CBS’ ‘The FBI Declassified: Saving Ethan’ delves deep into the chilling 2013 case, wherein FBI agents and analysts had to race against the clock to save a 5-year-old boy who was kidnapped and held hostage by a dangerous gunman on his property in Alabama. In this episode, we follow everything from the abduction to the unprecedented tactics used by the authorities to rescue that little boy and give him his life back. Jimmy Lee Dykes was the man behind the almost seven-day hostage crisis that shook the nation and changed the lives of many who were involved. Curious to know what happened and how he died? Here are all the details for you.

Who Was Jimmy Lee Dykes?

Jimmy Lee Dykes was a 65-year-old decorated Vietnam War Navy veteran when he changed everything with his actions in early 2013. Before that, though, he lived in Florida, where he was arrested for brandishing a gun in 1995. In 2000, he was charged for the illegal possession of marijuana. Then he moved to Midland City, Dale County, Alabama, where he beat a neighbor’s dog to death with an iron pipe just because it wandered onto his property, warned children not to trespass, and built a speed bump to prevent people from driving too fast down the street.

Image Credit: CBS News / The FBI Declassified

Jimmy Dykes was known to patrol his property at night with a shotgun and a flashlight in hand, but he had also cleared a path on it to allow school buses easy access. Apparently, he lived a life of isolation and had lost contact with his only child, an adult daughter, years before the incident. On January 29, 2013, shortly after 3:30 p.m., Jimmy Dykes boarded a school bus and told the driver that he wanted to take two children, boys, between the ages of six to eight, from the bus. The driver, 66-year-old Charles Albert Poland Jr., refused, blocked access to the aisle, and told Jimmy that he’d have to kill him before he’d let any of the kids get hurt.

Image Credit: CBS News / The FBI Declassified

After a bit of back and forth, Jimmy fired five shots, killing Charles instantly. He left the bus after grabbing ahold of Ethan Gilman, a five-year-old student from Midland City Elementary School. Thankfully, Tre’ Watts, a 15-year-old on the bus, had dialed 911 soon after Jimmy had boarded, and so the authorities immediately knew of what had happened. Jimmy took Ethan to a 6×8 foot underground bunker that he had built on his property. It contained homemade bombs and was equipped with a PVC ventilation pipe.

How Did Jimmy Lee Dykes Die?

Image Credit: CBS News / The FBI Declassified

Soon after the abduction, Jimmy himself called 911 and gave them instructions on how they can communicate with him if they want to see the boy alive again. As directed, FBI hostage negotiators arrived at the bunker and began talking to Jimmy through the ventilation pipe. Because Ethan had been diagnosed with Asperger’s syndrome and ADHD, Jimmy accepted medication for him, sent through the pipe, along with a coloring book and crayons.

Later on, it was revealed that Jimmy wanted a female reporter to broadcast him live from the bunker so that he could commit suicide on television for the world to see in real-time. Investigations also confirmed that during their time in the bunker, Jimmy trained Ethan on how to detonate a few of the bombs that were in it. After about six days, on February 4, 2013, at 3:12 p.m., the FBI’s Hostage Rescue Team finally put their reclamation plan into action. This came into play after negotiations started to break down, and they saw, through a well-placed hidden camera, that Jimmy Lee Dykes was armed inside the bunker and could harm Ethan at any time.

The rescue team used explosive charges to breach the bunker’s roof and immediately threw stun grenades inside it in an attempt to immobilize Jimmy and get him away from the boy. What followed was a short gunfire exchange, which ultimately resulted in Jimmy losing his life and Ethan gaining back his freedom. Jimmy Lee Dykes was shot and killed by the FBI during the successful rescue attempt. (Featured Image Credit: CBS News / The FBI Declassified)

Read More: Where Is Tre Watts Now?