The 65-year-old retired truck driver who held a 5-year-old autistic boy hostage in a bunker after killing an Alabama school bus driver last week is dead and the child is safe, the FBI said Monday afternoon.
FBI agents stormed the underground bunker in Midland City, Ala., and rescued the boy at 3:12 p.m. CT (4:12 p.m. ET) after deciding he was in imminent danger from his captor, Jimmy Lee Dykes, FBI Special Agent in Charge Steve Richardson said at a news conference.
"Over the past 24 hours, negotiations deteriorated and Mr. Dykes was observed holding a gun," Richardson said.
He did not say how Dykes died.
The boy, identified so far only as Ethan, was taken a hospital in nearby Dothan. He reportedly suffers from Asperger's syndrome and attention deficit hyperactivity disorder.
Dykes had held the boy six days in his homemade bunker since abducting him from the bus after gunning down the 66-year-old driver, Charles Poland Jr.
There were reports of one or two loud bangs on the property, and a neighbor who lives about a quarter-mile from where Dykes was holed up told the Associated Press that he heard a boom followed by a gunshot.
A federal law enforcement official told USA TODAY that authorities took action after growing increasing concerned about Dykes' deteriorating mental state.
"They were not going to risk anything, but it was becoming clear that things were not going in the right direction,'' said the official, who was briefed on the matter but was not authorized to comment publicly.
The official described the boy as being "OK."
Earlier Monday, the Dale County sheriff said Dykes believed he had an "important" story to share, though he offered no details.
Authorities had continued to communicate with Dykes through a ventilation pipe and to supply the boy with medicine and treats, including coloring books, crayons, potato chips, cheese crackers and a toy car, ABC says.
CBS News reported that Wednesday will be the boy's sixth birthday.
In an interview with ABC News, 14-year-old Tarrica Singletary, one of 21 students aboard the bus, described what happened last Tuesday afternoon aboard the bus in rural Midland City, tucked in the red-dirt hills of southeastern Alabama near the Florida Panhandle.
"He said he was going to kill us, going to kill us all," she said. "The bus driver kept saying, 'Just please get off the bus,' and (Dykes) said, 'Ah, all right, I'll get off the bus.'"
She said the driver "tried to back up and reverse and (Dykes) pulled out the gun and he just shot him, and he just took Ethan."
Poland, who had driven a school bus since 2009, was buried Sunday.
Surveillance drones had been flown over Dykes' property, officials said.
"It gives them more time to study this bunker," said former FBI profiler Brad Garrett, who is an ABC News consultant. "Does Mr. Dykes have any explosives? Has he booby trapped the doors if ever they tried to get in?"
At a brief news conference earlier Monday afternoon, Dale County Sheriff Wally Olson said authorities had been "engaged" with Dykes "around the clock."
Dykes "feels like he has a story that's important to him. Although it's very complex, we're trying to make a safe environment," Olson said.
AL.com reported less visible activity around the law enforcement command center along Highway 231 in Midland City than in previous days.
The FBI was also restricting what images photographers could take.