Published 11:03 pm Wednesday, March 6, 2013
Dale County Sheriffs recall shooting, hostage situation
Dale County Sheriff Wally Olson told the Brundidge Rotarians Wednesday that he had no doubt that God had His arms wrapped around 5-year-old Ethan during the six days he was held hostage in a 6×8-foot bunker in rural Dale County.
“There is power in prayer,” Olson said. “Give God the credit. He was there.”
Olson spoke to the Brundidge Rotarians Wednesday on his recent experience with the hostage situation in Dale County that began Jan. 29 and ended six days later.
Olson said no one expects anything of that nature to happen in their town but, when such a situation occurred in Midland City, the Dale County community stepped in with support that FBI agents on the scene said they had never seen before.
Olson had praise for the law enforcement officers, first responders and the Dale County community for being a part of bringing the hostage situation to a successful conclusion.
The hostage situation began on Jan. 29, when Jimmy Lee Dykes boarded a Dale County school bus and demanded that the driver hand over two children. The driver, Charles Albert Poland, Jr., was shot and killed when he refused and blocked the aisle allowing about 20 children to escape. Dykes then grabbed the kindergartner and barricaded himself and the young boy inside a bunker he had built at his Midland City home.
“He (Poland) is a hero and all of those children are heroes, too,” Olson told the Rotarians. “And Ethan is a remarkable little fellow. It was our mission to get him home safely.”
Olson, who has two little girls, said the hostage situation was a tough time for him personally and professionally.
“It was the hardest thing that I have ever experienced,” Olson said. “There were about 300 law enforcement officers on the ground every day. But everybody pulled together – the FBI, ABI, State Troopers, local law enforcement and first responders in an effort to bring the situation to a successful conclusion.”
Olson said that he learned a lot from the experience.
The Dale County Sheriff said that the situation required equipment that was not standard for his department. Some of the necessary equipment had to be purchased and other equipment was made available through other agencies.
Olson said that a large number of officers on the ground was necessary because of the complexity of the situation.
“Every man on the ground was needed,” he said. “We were dealing with the possibility of explosives and, if the bunker had collapsed, we had to have people available who had the special training to deal with that situation. And, there is a fatigue factor when you’re working 24 hours a day. We had to have fresh people, as with the negotiators.”
Olson said the FBI negotiators did a good job but Dykes made unreasonable demands.
When it became difficult to deal with Dykes and believing the Ethan was in imminent danger, and FBI team entered the bunker and rescued the child.
Olson said that Dykes had no relationship to any children on the bus. He did have a criminal record but nothing that set him apart and sent up any red flags.