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The gunman suspected of fatally shooting an Alabama school bus driver before holing up in an underground bunker with a young child is a Vietnam veteran with anti-America views, authorities and an organization that tracks hate groups said on Wednesday.
Schools in the area of the Alabama shooting were closed on Wednesday as authorities continued to negotiate with the gunman. Reuters could not independently verify his identity. But the Southern Poverty Law Center reported on its Hatewatch blog that a chief investigator with the Dale County Sheriff's Office identified the gunman as 65-year-old Jimmy Lee Dykes.
Investigator Tim Byrd said Dykes' friends and neighbors described him as a "survivalist" who did not trust the government, according to the law center blog. "He was standoffish, didn't socialize or have any contact with anybody," Byrd told Hatewatch. Dykes had not been on the law center's radar before the shooting and standoff, and there was nothing to suggest he was a member of any hate group, said senior fellow Mark Potok. "What it looks like is that he's some kind of anti-government radical and survivalist," Potok told Reuters. "And exactly what that means, we don't know."
Mike Creel, who said the suspect was his neighbor, told the local Dothan Eagle newspaper he spoke to some of the shaken children. “I talked to a girl that was riding the bus, and she told me that he came on the bus and said, ‘I need two kids between the ages of 6 and 8,’” Creel said.
The driver told him, ‘I can’t do that,'" and the suspect opened fire on him, Creel said. Creel also said the gunman tried to grab two kids but only got a hold of one because that boy fainted.