TheBlaze’s Jonathon M. Seidl contributed to this report.
The bizarre story about an Alabama man who shot and killed a bus driver, abducted a child, hunkered down in an underground bunker and sparked a more than 30-hour (and counting) police standoff continues to take intriguing twists and turns. Among them, people close to the investigation claim that the perpetrator is a “survivalist,” an individual who is prepared with an underground location, food and supplies in case of potential catastrophe.
While police haven’t officially named the suspect, neighbors and sources claim that he is 65-year-old Jimmy Lee Dykes, a retired truck driver and Vietnam veteran who purportedly suffers from Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD). New-found details about his beliefs and alleged outlook on America, the government and impending disaster are now becoming centerpieces in various media accounts of the dangerous situation at hand.
WFSA-TV is just one outlet that reports that Dykes is purportedly a “doomsday prepper.” As of Thursday morning, this factoid was gaining steam, with media outlets providing little background about the movement that the suspect is being attached to. In addition to claiming that the accused is a potential survivalist, WFSA also reports that the underground bunker he built — the location he is suspected of keeping the child in — is stocked with food and other essentials.
In addition, some are claiming that Dykes holds anti-American views. However there do not seem to be corroborations or definitive assessments surrounding what, exactly, this means. CNN, among other outlets, has cited Mark Potok of the Southern Poverty Law Center (SPLC), a liberal group that monitors extremism in America. Potok claims that Dykes has been described as being “very much standoffish and very much a loner,” but that any attachment to anti-government groups is currently unknown.
In his CNN appearance, the SPLC staffer touched upon preppers, claiming that, “survivalism has been associated with the far right in this country for many years.” That said, Potok refrained from making sweeping generalizations about the movement being tied to any sort of violence or criminal activity.
“Certainly most preppers are not going to kill anyone or [conduct] any criminal violence,” he told host Anderson Cooper.
Watch Potok discuss survivalism and the suspect’s potential beliefs, below:
This isn’t the first time the “prepper” movement has been included in a tragedy. After the Newtown massacre, many were quick to point out that the mother of gunman Adam Lanza was focused on being prepared.
“It’s just brutal right now,” Phil Burns, co-founder of the American Preppers Network, told TheBlaze in an exclusive interview at the time. “I have a community to look out for and to protect. This is my passion and I don’t like seeing it demonized.”
“Preppers’ are being used as a scapegoat right now,” he added.
As he explained at the time, “preppers” can be a misleading term since there are really three categories: survivalists, doomsday preppers and conspiratorial preppers.
As for the incident itself, neighbor Mike Creel spoke with students on the bus and painted a shocking picture of the scenario that began earlier this week. Dykes allegedly boarded a school bus and killed the driver, managing to leave with one child who had fainted during the incident. Creel says the suspect then “retreated back onto his land” and hid himself — and the child — in “his homemade bomb shelter.” According to the neighbor, the bunker was one of the first things that Dyke started building two years ago when he moved onto the land.
Since Tuesday, the unnamed, 6-year-old child has been underground with the alleged captor. While the situation is still being described as “static,” the young boy is said to be okay. Authorities were reportedly able to get essential medication to him (New York Magazine reports that the medications he takes are for ADHD and Asperger’s syndrome).