MIDLAND CITY, Ala. -- For six anguished days, people in this small Alabama town asked just one question about the 5-year-old boy being held hostage in an underground bunker by a menacing, unpredictable neighbor: "Is he free yet?"
After FBI agents determined that talks with an increasingly agitated Jimmy Lee Dykes were breaking down, they stormed the closet-sized hideout Monday afternoon and freed the kindergartner. The 65-year-old armed captor was killed by law enforcement agents, an official told The Associated Press.
Interviewed Tuesday, the boy's great uncle, Berlin Enfinger, told ABC's Good Morning America that the child was relieved to be home after his rescue a day earlier. Authorities had said they considered the 5-year-old to be facing imminent danger when they decided to go in.
"He's happy to be home, and he looks good," Enfinger said.
Almost a week after Dykes was accused of fatally shooting a school bus driver on Jan. 29 and grabbing the child from among a busload of students, authorities were undertaking an extensive investigation of the standoff site - some 100 acres in Midland City where Dykes had built his bunker.
An official in Midland City, citing information from law enforcement, said police had shot Dykes. The official requested anonymity because the official wasn't authorized to speak publicly about the investigation into the case that had captured national attention.
But federal authorities were tight-lipped about specifics of how they ended the standoff.
Neighbors said they heard a bang and gunshots, but the FBI wouldn't confirm that. Authorities also kept under wraps exactly how they were able to monitor Dykes and the boy in such a confined space.
"We have a big crime scene behind us to process," said Special Agent Steve Richardson of the FBI's office in Mobile. "I can't talk about sources, techniques or methods that we used. But I can tell you the success story is (the boy) is safe."
Dale County Sheriff Wally Olson said Dykes was armed when officers entered the bunker. He added the boy was threatened, but declined to elaborate.
"That's why we went inside - to save the child," he said.
Daryle Hendry, who lives about a quarter-mile from the bunker, said he heard a boom Monday afternoon, followed by what sounded like a gunshot. Dykes had been seen with a gun, and officers concluded the boy was in imminent danger, Richardson told reporters.
It was not immediately clear how authorities determined the man had a gun.
The boy was reunited with his mother and taken to a hospital to be checked out. Officials have said he has Asperger's syndrome and attention deficit hyperactivity disorder.
Richardson said he saw the child at the hospital and he was laughing, joking, eating and "doing the things you'd expect a normal 5- or 6-year-old to do."
The rescue capped a hostage drama that disrupted the lives of many in a tranquil town of 2,400 people set amid peanut farms and cotton fields some 100 miles southeast of the state capital of Montgomery.
It's a small, close-knit community that has long relied on a strong Christian faith, a policy of "love thy neighbor" and the power of group prayer.