The normally quiet red-clay road leading to the bunker was busy Friday with more than a dozen police cars and trucks, a fire truck, a helicopter, officers from multiple agencies and news media near Midland City, a town with a population of 2,300 that’s about 100 miles southeast of Montgomery.
Police vehicles have come and gone steadily for hours from the command post, a small church nearby.
Dykes was known around the neighborhood as a menacing figure who neighbors said once beat a dog to death with a lead pipe, threatened to shoot children for setting foot on his property and patrolled his yard at night with a flashlight and a firearm.
He was in the Navy from 1964 to 1969 and served some time in Japan, according to military records.
Authorities said Dykes boarded a stopped school bus filled with children on Tuesday afternoon and demanded two boys between 6 and 8 years old. When the driver tried to block his way, the gunman shot him several times and took the 5-year-old boy.
The bus driver, Charles Albert Poland Jr., 66, was hailed by locals as a hero who gave his life to protect the pupils on his bus.
Dykes had been scheduled to appear in court Wednesday to answer charges he shot at his neighbors in a dispute last month over a speed bump. Neighbor Claudia Davis said he yelled and fired shots at her and her family over damage Dykes claimed their pickup truck did to a makeshift speed bump in the dirt road. No one was hurt.
Davis’ son, James Davis Jr., believed Tuesday’s shooting was connected to the court date. ‘‘I believe he thought I was going to be in court and he was going to get more charges than the menacing, which he deserved, and he had a bunch of stuff to hide and that’s why he did it.’’
Creel said his father and Dykes are friends. Creel said that after Dykes’ arrest, Dykes wrote a 2- to 3-page letter that at least in part addressed the menacing case and that he shared with Greg Creel.
Michael Creel said he hasn’t seen the letter but that his father has. The younger Creel said his father told him that Dykes said he had sent the letter to the local media, politicians and Alabama’s governor.
Michael Creel said police on Friday took the copy of the letter from the Creels’ home. Reached for comment, Greg Creel confirmed the existence of the letter but declined further comment and said he was cooperating with police.
A neighbor directly across the street, Brock Parrish, said Dykes usually wore overalls and glasses and his posture was hunched-over. He said Dykes usually drove a run-down ‘‘creeper’’ van with some of the windows covered in aluminum foil.
Parrish often saw him digging in his yard, as if he were preparing to lay down a driveway or building foundation. He lived in a small camping trailer and patrolled his lawn at night, walking from corner to corner with a flashlight and a long gun. Parrish described the weapon as an assault rifle, while another neighbor said it was a shotgun. Michael Creel said Dykes has five weapons he knows of, but he’s not aware of him having an assault weapon. Authorities have not disclosed what firearms Dykes might have in his possession.
Associated Press writers Eric Tucker in Washington; Phillip Rawls in Midland City; Bob Johnson in Montgomery, Ala., and AP researcher Rhonda Shafner in New York contributed to this report.