As standoff drags on in Ala., town mourns bus driver

Associated Press

MIDLAND CITY, Ala.

As the police standoff with an Alabama man accused of holding a 5-year-old boy hostage continued Saturday, a nearby community prepared to bury the beloved bus driver who was shot to death trying to protect children on his bus when the episode began days earlier.

Charles Albert Poland Jr., 66, who was known around town as Chuck, was described by folks in his hometown of Newton as a humble hero. Hundreds of people attended visitation services for Poland on Saturday evening. Mourners said they were proud of Poland for his act of selflessness and for laying down his life for the children on the bus. His funeral was set for this afternoon.

Authorities said Jim Lee Dykes boarded a stopped school bus filled with 21 children Tuesday afternoon and demanded two boys between 6 and 8 years old. When Poland tried to block his way, the gunman shot him several times and took one 5-year-old boy — who police say remains in an underground bunker with Dykes.

Dale County Sheriff Wally Olson said in a briefing with reporters Saturday that Dykes has told them he has blankets and an electric heater in the bunker on his property. Olson also said Dykes has allowed police to deliver coloring books, medication and toys for the boy.

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