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THE SITUATION ROOM
Hostage Crisis Over
Aired February 4, 2013 - 17:00 ET
THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.
WOLF BLITZER, CNN HOST: Martin, hold on for a moment.
It's now the top of the hour, 5:00 p.m. here on the East Coast. I just want to update our viewers who may just be tuning in.
We have now confirmed from a law enforcement source that the little 5-year-old boy being held hostage in an underground bunker for seven days has been released and he is fine, we are told. The suspect in this case, Jimmy Lee Dykes, the man who was accused, charged with killing this bus driver, Charles Albert Poland, Jr. seven days ago, he is dead. But the boy, we are told, is fine.
We're standing by for a news conference. Federal and local authorities are about to go to the microphones and brief all of us on what's going on. This has been a seven day ordeal.
Martin Savidge is on the scene for us in Midland City, Alabama.
Also joining us on the phone right now is Chris Voss, a former FBI lead international kidnapping negotiator.
What do you think, Chris?
You and I have discussed this case. If, in fact, the little boy is fine -- and that's what a law enforcement source is now telling CNN, the 5-year-old is fine, the suspect in this case is dead. This is the outcome of this seven day ordeal.
What goes through your mind, Chris?
CHRIS VOSS, FORMER FBI LEAD INTERNATIONAL KIDNAPPING INVESTIGATOR: Well, Wolf, you know, they told me a couple days ago that they were a little bit concerned because they didn't see -- they knew that Dykes didn't see a way out of this for him. And, unfortunately, what goes with a hostage negotiator's territory is it's part of the job to actually orchestrate something like this. And it sounds to me like the negotiators and the tactical people worked together and took the only option that they possibly could in order to save the little boy's life.
BLITZER: And so we don't know why -- the details. We're going to be finding out the details of how this unfolded.
The good news is that the little boy is fine, is safe, is OK. And we don't know if this was the result of some sort of operation that was going on. We have no information on the details other than the boy is fine, the suspect is dead
In normal situations -- and you've been involved in a lot of these kinds of kidnapping negotiations, with a kidnapper, with people who are being held hostage, if you will -- is this the normal outcome?
What's your experience?
VOSS: No, this isn't the normal outcome. But every hostage negotiator, every SWAT team leader has to recognize the earmarks of one of these when they see it and they have to begin to plan it from the very beginning. But nine out of 10 times, the hostage taker surrenders and the hostages are released unharmed. So this was definitely an unusual situation.
BLITZER: The fact that we're dealing with a hostage who's only five years old, that changes the situation, as opposed to someone holding adults.
VOSS: Well, it does change the dynamics. It can cause a negotiation to veer in a direction where you try to get the hostage taker to do more to take care of the hostage. And you can exploit that if you have to.
BLITZER: And you have to assume, in an underground bunker like this, that the suspect did have access to outside information, whether from television or radio or whatever, and had the sense of what was going on, isn't that right?
VOSS: Yes, yes, absolutely, assume from the beginning that since he's prepared for this in advance -- and he clearly had prepared for it in advance -- he gave himself the means to monitor the media while he was inside.
BLITZER: What kind of signals do these negotiators -- and you've been an FBI negotiator dealing with hostage holders -- what do you look for if you're going to make a decision to, for example, launch an operation and go inside and try and save this 5-year-old, what would cause you to break up the discussions, the talking, and just go for the operation?
VOSS: Well, you're constantly listening for whether or not they have any vision of the future and what that vision of the future looks like. And you can paint a pretty clear picture of the way they think it's going to come out. At that point in time, you start to establish patterns with the person you're talking to, whether it's a sleep pattern, whether it's an eat pattern, anything you can do to begin to predict their movements increases the chance of a likelihood of a tactical -- the success of a tactical intervention.
BLITZER: In a situation like this, I know there are professional negotiators from the FBI or other law enforcement agencies talking to this particular individual, Jimmy Lee Dykes.
But is it normal to also bring in acquaintances or friends or family members of the suspect to try to talk some sense into that person? VOSS: Well, from the very first moment that law enforcement showed up on the scene -- and it would have been a multiagency hostage negotiation team from the sheriffs, the police department, the FBI, everyone would have collaborated. One of the first things that they do is begin to identify exactly those people that you're talking about and begin to talk to them and assess them for whether or not they can put them on the phone or simply advise the negotiations.
BLITZER: And see where it goes from there.
Hold on for a moment, Chris.
Chris Voss is a former FBI hostage negotiator.
Martin Savidge is with us on the scene in Midland City, Alabama -- does it look, Martin, like they're getting any closer, the FBI, other federal and local authorities, to coming to those microphones and briefing us and what's going on?
MARTIN SAVIDGE, CNN CORRESPONDENT: I'd love to say they were, Wolf, but, no, there's no indication right now. We haven't seen anybody cross the street. We have not seen anyone make their approach here. We're still watching very carefully the compound and the area where the authorities have been gathered now.
No, I'm looking at people there, but there's no way to tell. So we continue to watch and just wait for them to come across the street. We expect that they -- given what has transpired, that it should be a fairly significant group of both local and federal law enforcement and that they're going to give us some insight into how this all went down.
You know, and, again, going back to the reports we heard from those in the area, they were actually reaching out to me and they said that did I hear that explosion, did I hear that gunfire?
As you can see, we're situated next to a very busy highway. So as a result, any sounds were pretty heavily masked by the traffic.
But it's clear that people on the other side of the highway and apparently in a closer direction to where this was all playing out, heard it. That was the first indication that there was an explosion, as they put it. And then there was the sound of gunfire.
So it sounds like there may have been a move, an entry that may have been made by hostage rescue team that the FBI has here, or could this have been in response to, in other words, perhaps the gunman taking his own life?
We simply don't know.
What we do know is that Jimmy Lee Dykes is dead. That's been confirmed by the authorities. And five-year-old Ethan is now safe and is OK, and, presumably, is now being checked out and hopefully reunited with his family.
So we are waiting, Wolf, for any indication that that news conference is going to begin. But right now, we just don't see it.
BLITZER: Where has his family been during these seven days?
Are they on the scene there, together with the those who have been talking to this individual, to this suspect?
SAVIDGE: We don't really know, Wolf. The mother in this particular case -- and that's the only sort of direct family member I have been told of -- has been very carefully sequestered. And so we really have not had any image other than from talking with locals who occasionally had a chance to speak with her. And she's been greatly distraught, as you could understand.
We also -- there was a question, actually, that was brought up to the sheriff earlier today. In fact, a reporter was asking, has the mother had the opportunity to speak to her child while he was being held captive inside of that bunker?
And it was interesting, the sheriff appeared that he was just about to answer that question when he was quite forcefully nudged out of the way by a state police officer, who seemed to be indicating, you know what, that's some information we just don't want revealed at this particular time. So we never really got an answer to that. And we've never really had a clear insight about the family. We just know that like any family, any parent, you would be just absolutely distraught, worried about your child. We know that authorities had reassured her that Dykes was looking after the child, was providing heating for the child, blankets, and requesting toys and even snacks.
So it appeared he did have a caring fashion about him, if you can say that, considering the fact he was also holding that child hostage. And it was always believed by the people here in Midland City that despite the fact that he had killed the bus driver, despite the fact he'd taken the 5-year-old into custody, he would never have harmed that child.
Now, whether federal authorities saw or thought something different, we don't know yet. But clearly, it has played out in a way not everybody here would have liked with the death of one, but the saving, of course, the good news, of that 5-year-old little boy.
BLITZER: Yes, that's obviously, all of us are very, very thrilled that little five-year-old Ethan is OK.
The suspect, Jimmy Lee Dykes, is dead. We don't know the circumstances, other than that there was an explosion. Gunshots were heard. We'll be getting more information momentarily from authorities at that news conference. Remind our viewers here in the United States, Martin, and around the world, what happened seven days ago, when Jimmy Lee Dykes boarded that little -- that school bus that was carrying, what, about 20 or 21 kids.
SAVIDGE: Right. It was 3:40 in the afternoon and the school bus was taking the kids back home. I mean, that would be the route that it was taking from Midland City. It's a very small community, only about 2,000 people. And this bus would have had children of all ages on it and, as you say, about 21 people.
And Charles Poland was the man who was driving, Mr. Chuck, as the kids liked to refer to him. He'd been driving for about four years for the county school system.
Anyway, he was at the end of a private road. And he had stopped because he saw Mr. Dykes. This is what we're hearing from witnesses. And Mr. Dykes seemed to have something in his hand, nonthreatening. And so that's when the bus driver stopped, opened the door. Mr. Dykes came on board and he began demanding, apparently, that he wanted two of the children. And it was then the bus driver, Chuck Poland, realized that this was not a typical situation and there could be a problem here. He reportedly stood up from the bus driver's seat, in the hall -- or, in the hall -- in the aisle way and he blocked access of Mr. Dykes to the children.
In the meantime, the children began going out the back door. The gunman seemed to back off at that point, but then fired four times, killing the bus driver, and then grabbing one of the children that apparently had fainted. That's 5-year-old Ethan.
And then made his way from there a short distance to the bunker he had built on his property, right next to his trailer. So that's how it began. And, really, that's the way it has been now, Wolf, for the past seven days. And this story, though, has garnered tremendous attention, not just in this community, not just in Alabama, but there are crews here, literally, from all over the world, including Japanese television. It has captured many people in a way that other hostage situations have not. I suppose the innocence of the child and the fact that -- the unusual nature in which that child is being held, in a bunker, and then, of course, all of the focus, as you're seeing.
But, again, the good news, there has been a rescue operation. It appears that it was conducted just a short while ago. Federal authorities going in. And now the gunman is now dead and that the 5- year-old boy has been rescued and is said to be in good condition.
We wait for a news conference to begin from federal authorities. And in the meantime, we continue to try to read the visual tea leaves from what's happening behind us here.
The activity seems to, as far as the armed officers that we saw on the property, now they're out of sight. But, again, we don't see any indication of that press conference. It's clear they're still trying to get all the information in before they come and talk to us, Wolf.
BLITZER: Which they should do, obviously.
Martin, I'm going to let you do some reporting.
So stand by. We'll get back to you momentarily.
I should point out that little Ethan did -- does suffer from what we're told is a mild form of Asperger's Syndrome and Attention Deficit Disorder, requiring some medication, as well.
Let's talk with Chris Voss.
He's on the phone. He's a former FBI kidnapping negotiator.
If you have a little boy like this, five years old, he's being held in a bunker, Chris, and needs medication and the suspect, the hostage holder, lets that medication come in to help the little boy, what does that say to you about what's going on?
VOSS: Look, it says a couple of things at the same time. It says that he's developing a working relationship with the hostage negotiators and he's willing to work with them. It also, ideally, tells you that he's beginning to show some concern for the hostage, the little boy, Ethan, in this case.
So it's a good sign on several levels. And the way that he refers to the little boy in the conversations is going to be critical as to know how he sees him and how much danger the little boy is in.
BLITZER: We don't know what motivated this suspect, Jimmy Lee Dykes, to board that bus, demand two kids. The bus driver resisted, blocking access. The bus driver, Charles Poland, a hero, was killed.
And the suspect in this case, Jimmy Lee Dykes, grabbing little Ethan, taking him to this underground bunker.
But in a situation like this, a previous situation, psychologically, what motivates someone?
Why would someone, an adult like, in this particular case, Jimmy Lee Dykes, Chris, go ahead, take a 5-year-old and go to this underground bunker that's described as some sort of survival camp, if you will?
VOSS: Well, sort of, in his world, it was clear that he only functioned in that very limited world on his property, in his bunker and the world that he built for himself very close by. So he felt threatened because of the court date, probably, and, also, he viewed the -- more than likely viewed that bus as a continuing intrusion on his world. And it just happened to be in the way. And the more threatened he felt, then that was simply the closest opportunity he had to try to pull more defenses around him.
BLITZER: Hold on a moment, Chris.
I want to go back to Martin Savidge.
He's on the scene for us in Midland City, Alabama, who's watching this -- Martin, we're waiting for the news conference, federal, local authorities. They're about to brief all of us on what has happened.
Just to update those viewers who are just tuning in, the little boy, the 5-year-old, Ethan, is OK. The suspect is this case is dead.
But what else are you learning? SAVIDGE: Well, we also know that there was gunfire and there was an explosion. And to that point, I want to bring in Brian Martin here. He is joining me. He's a neighbor and he was outside when all of this went down.
And it was pretty clear to you something was happening, right?
BRIAN MARTIN, NEIGHBOR: Oh, yes, I knew something was going on.
SAVIDGE: What was the indication of the first one?
MARTIN: I heard a big boom, and then I heard -- I believe I heard rifle shots.
SAVIDGE: And give us a sense how loud of a boom. I mean, very loud?
MARTIN: Oh, yes. Literally made me jump off the ground and scared me that much.
SAVIDGE: And what did you think of that time?
MARTIN: I knew immediately they done something down here.
SAVIDGE: Were you surprised that it came to this?
MARTIN: No, not really. I figured they were going to blow him out of there and try to get the kid out, somehow.
SAVIDGE: You didn't see any other way that this could be resolved, that he would be talked out, that this would end with no one being hurt or killed?
MARTIN: It didn't seem like it after so long being in there.
SAVIDGE: We should point out, Wolf, that Brian, as we said, is a neighbor of Mr. Dykes. And you've actually met and spoken to him in the past.
MARTIN: I've talked to him once or twice. I rode my four- wheeler down there. I thought to buy some land down the street. He pointed me in the right direction where to go, the owner of the land. He was a little strange, but I didn't think nothing of it then.
SAVIDGE: There was no indication what has transpired would happen, that he lead to something like this?
MARTIN: No, no. I can't believe it happened in our little town.
SAVIDGE: What do you think is the reaction? What is the feeling now from the people in this town about what's happened?
MARTIN: I'm sure everybody's happy. If, I haven't heard for sure that that little boy's out of there and he's well.
SAVIDGE: This has been -- and I can't tell you enough, Wolf, how much of a focus, of people's prayers, people's thoughts have been on that little boy.
MARTIN: I prayed for seven days.
SAVIDGE: This is an area where people are deep in their faith. And even yesterday, at the memorial service for the bus driver, Mr. Poland, they prayed for Mr. Dykes, prayed that he'd have a change of heart and prayed that this would end peacefully. Give us a sense of just how much people have really been caught up in this.
MARTIN: Nothing happened like this around here. Not that I know of. But, we got a lot of people in this area that pray a lot and do a lot for the churches.
SAVIDGE: And now that it's ended with gunfire, and with an explosion, and with the death of Mr. Dykes, do you think this community is going to be able to heal?
MARTIN: As long as that little boy's all right, yes.
SAVIDGE: All right, Brian, thank you. Thank you very much. And, again, it was quite clear to neighbors, anybody who was near that area, that something happened. The explosion was very loud. And the gunfire that came after that was a clear indication that this was some kind of entry that was being made by federal authorities. And now, as you have already reported, Wolf, we know that the gunman is dead and that five-year-old little boy is alive and well.
And, no doubt being checked out now by medical authorities. And then, probably running into the arms or going to be greeted by a mother who is just ecstatic and a community, too, that will be equally relieved that he is safe and sound, because as I point out, down here, people were really, really worried about that little boy in a hole. That's how they always referred to him. Little Ethan.
And everywhere you go, there's signs, prayers for Ethan. We'll wait again for this news conference. We were told it was supposed to happen by now. Still no indication, Wolf. We're standing by. You can see that the large cluster of microphones are set. We're just a few minutes away. So, the moment that anyone steps to this microphone, we'll bring it to you for some sort of updated information -- Wolf.
BLITZER: Yes. We're standing by for that news conference. Federal authorities have taken the lead, kidnapping being a federal charge if you will. But local authorities will be there as well. Martin, hold on for a moment. Joining us on the phone is the Alabama state representative, Steve Clouse who over these past seven days has spoken with the family of the little five-year-old Ethan. Representative, you haven't spoken with them today, have you?
STEVE CLOUSE, ALABAMA STATE REPRESENTATIVE (on the phone): No, I haven't, Wolf. This -- now joyous about the news we're getting. Finally, this nightmare has come to an end.
BLITZER: Have you heard any specifics on how it ended, what happened? CLOUSE: No, just that Ethan is relatively healthy. He's at the hospital there being checked out, and Jimmy Lee Dykes is dead. Whether he's dead by his own hand or by the hands of authorities, we just don't know that right now.
BLITZER: When you say relatively healthy, is there any indication he was wounded or injured in some sort of way?
CLOUSE: No indication there, just the trauma of being underground in this man-made bunker for six days has got to be traumatic for anyone, how much less, little five-year-old.
BLITZER: But you can't -- you have heard -- I just want to be precise, representative, that Ethan is now in a hospital nearby in Dothan, Alabama, is that right?
CLOUSE: That's correct.
BLITZER: How far is that from midland city?
CLOUSE: That's probably about seven or eight miles.
BLITZER: So, that's where he is. Do you know if he's been reunited with his mom?
CLOUSE: I don't know that for sure. I know that she's -- was told and -- and her mother, and they were obviously ecstatic. I'm sure they've been reunited by now.
BLITZER: And you suggest that we don't know how this suspect, Jimmy Lee Dykes, died. We know his head, but you're saying it's possible he could have taken his own life? Is that what you're hearing?
CLOUSE: No, I'm not hearing anything. I'm just saying i don't know, you know, I don't know --
BLITZER: We don't know what -- how he died.
CLOUSE: We don't know how he died. We just know he's dead.
BLITZER: We do know from eyewitnesses, representative, that there was an explosion heard by gunfire, some gunshots, and they were pretty loud. We don't know obviously what that means other than the situation looks like it's wrapped up, and we're standing by. Our viewers are seeing microphones in Midland City, Alabama, where the authorities, federal authorities, are going to be going fairly soon to brief all of us. Is there anything else you want to share with our viewers?
CLOUSE: Nothing other than just I hope the next time you all crews have to come back for a good reason, not something like this. But of course this ended on a happy note. But we still have to remember the slain bus driver. So, a family who's devastated by this event. Of course, we had that funeral yesterday. And he'll go down as a hero because there's 22 other children that are safely in their family's arms right now because of him.
BLITZER: He refused to cooperate with this suspect. He blocked the doors. And Charles Poland (ph) paid for that with his life. He is, in fact, a hero. There's a picture of Mr. Poland. We admire him and we send our deepest, deepest condolences to his family there in Alabama. If you get some more information, representative, let us know. Steve Clouse is Alabama's state representative who is joining us on the phone.
You're looking at the live pictures coming in from Midland City in Alabama. The microphones where the authorities will be going we're told momentarily to make the announcement that the little boy is fine. We heard from the state representative. He's now in a hospital in Dothan, Alabama, not that far away from Midland City, and that the suspect in this case, Jimmy Lee Dykes, is dead.
We don't know the circumstances of how this unfolded, but we will be learning all those details very soon. Martin Savidge is on the scene for us as we await the news conference. Martin what else are you learning?
SAVIDGE: Well, I've just been joined now by the Reverend Michael Senn. He's instrumental in all of this because his church, just a short distance away. He was here moments after this drama all began. And I'm talking a week ago or almost last Tuesday.
And he actually counseled, talked to some of those children that had escaped the bus in which Mr. Poland was killed and the other young boy, Ethan, was taken hostage. First of all, you've heard the news what's happened, correct?
REVEREND MICHAEL SENN, MIDWAY ASSEMBLY OF GOD: Yes, we've heard the news, and, of course, as far as everything I know, just speculation at this time, but if it is what we hear and the little boy's OK, that is a very great thing.
SAVIDGE: What about the condition of Ethan? Have you heard anything about that?
SENN: I really have not heard a whole lot more than probably most everybody else has, because everything is -- everyone's been so tight-lipped about the situation. But we have heard that he's been taken fairly well care of. Mr. Dykes has allowed him to have food down the pipe and even his few toys, some chips and stuff like that.
That's pretty much all that we've heard. But that -- from the best we can understand is that he is OK physically.
SAVIDGE: Were you surprised it came to this, that it came to violence, and eventually, Mr. Dykes was killed?
SENN: Well, that really was not what I was expecting nor hoping for. You know, what I was hearing from everyone is that they were going to wait this thing out, but here we are now just a few hours away from being a week later from the situation. So, you know, we know by all indications that this thing really need to wind up and the main thing is that this little boy is safe and back with his family. And we're just really hoping and praying that what we're hearing is true, that he is OK.
SAVIDGE: You were talking to one of the children that managed to escape that bus, I believe, yesterday?
SENN: Right. Last night.
SAVIDGE: And you were describing they were in still a very difficult way.
SENN: Yes. I was talking to one of the young men, 13 years old, that I had talked to about 35 minutes after it happened who was really having a rough time. But i saw him yesterday. And, he seemed to be in a lot better mood. He was actually playing with some other children that I know and still has not said hardly anything about the situation, not even to his friends.
I understand when somebody goes through something as traumatic as this, sometimes, it's a long time before they'll even talk about it.
SAVIDGE: These have been very, very difficult days on your community.
SENN: Yes, it really has. We never expected anything like this to take place here in Southeast Alabama. But, you know, I'm really thankful for the people of this community. We've got some good folks here in Midland City, in the (ph) area. And folks have really come together. Churches have come together and had prayer vigils.
And even a lot of the locals have had prayer vigils every night in Midland City, and they said they were going to have it every night until Ethan was set free. So, you know, we see a community of folks that really care for one another and just care for life and care for anybody.
SAVIDGE: What do you think, how quickly can this community heal and move on?
SENN: Well, I know that it's going to take some time, especially for the children and the parents that have -- especially young kids in school. I've talked to several that said that they were scared to allow their children to go back to school, much less ride a school bus again. So, there's going to be emotional scars I know that's probably going to last for a real long time, but the community, itself, is real strong and we'll get through this with the help of the Lord.
SAVIDGE: Reverend, thank you very much for coming by and speaking with us.
SENN: Thank you. Nice to meet you.
SAVIDGE: And Wolf, you know, talking about that issue, there are a lot of parents that are going to be very concerned about placing their children on a school bus here in this community. Neighboring Ozark, the city just started school again today for the first time today since this tragedy. We were there. We watched the buses come in.
We watched the parents also drop off their children, and many are very, very worried. They're actually is a state law right now that had not been enforced but will be which is that no person other than a child is allowed within the perimeter of a school bus within 15 feet. That's the superintendent of Ozark schools telling me that they will now begin to heavily enforce that, which means bus comes to a bus stop it stops 15 feet away. Even a parent cannot approach the bus. Only a child.
If an adult does make their way towards a bus, the bus driver is told to close the door and it maybe drive off. Again, it was something they didn't used to do, but life is not the way it was down here in Midland City. And again, no sign of anyone coming to the microphones, but we're ready and waiting to bring it to you as soon as they do -- Wolf.
BLITZER: Martin, stand by. We're going to get back to you, obviously, as soon as the authorities come to those microphones. We'll carry that news conference live. We'll hear exactly how happened. how they saved the life of this little five-year-old Ethan and the kidnapper is now dead.
We don't know the circumstances of how this went down other than eyewitnesses heard an explosion, followed by gunshots, followed by confirmation from a law enforcement source to CNN that Ethan is OK and that the kidnapper is dead. We were told by state representative Steve Clouse that Ethan is now in a local hospital, Dothan, Alabama, not that far away.
We hope he's with his mom, with his family, and he's beginning to adjust. But let's talk about this adjustment process. Lisa Van Susteren, a forensic psychiatrist is joining us right now. Lisa, tell us about what they need to do. A five-year-old. He's almost six years old. He suffers apparently from a mild form of Asperger's syndrome, attention deficit disorder. What do they need to do to get this little boy back going, and you know, restart his life?
VOICE OF LISA VAN SUSTEREN, FORENSIC PSYCHIATRIST: It's going to be a bit complicated, first of all, by the fact that he does have Asperger's. The problem there is oftentimes, as many people know, that means that there's difficulty with communication skills. And one of the things that is going to be especially difficult is to get him to be able to verbalize in a very nuanced way what he needs to say about what happened.
So, I think that's going to be their biggest hurdle at first. Getting him to talk about the trauma is something that is going to be necessary. It's going to have to take place in his time, when he feels like talking about it. So, the first thing is they're going to need to take him to a place where he feels very, very safe.
The fact that he was ripped from that bus under those circumstances means that his sense of safety, potentially, could be compromised almost for the rest of his life. A stain of that memory. So, trying to reach him verbally, making him safe, letting him know that the people who were talking to him, though, he doesn't know them, the experts are going to be reaching. That he can trust them. That's going to be their biggest hurdle.
BLITZER: We see someone standing at the microphones, Lisa. Not exactly sure who he is. Let's listen in quickly.
(BEGIN LIVE COVERAGE OF PRESS CONFERENCE)
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: -- Hugh McCall (ph), colonel of the Alabama Department of Public Safety. We're going to give a briefing on the development that took place in this investigation. And this will not be an opportunity for -- they will not entertain questions. We will have opportunities later for that. This is just a general briefing to discuss the development of what happened here today. So, it should be in five minutes.
Steve Richardson. the spelling, Richardson, traditional R-I-C-H- A-R-D-S-O-N. I'm sure you all know Wally Olson, O-L-S-O-N. Hugh McCall. First name, H-U-G-H, McCall, M-C-C-A-L-L. Thank you.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: We'll have that later this evening. And we will let you know. We'll update you as soon as that's -- thank you. OK, thank you. It will be five minutes.
(END LIVE COVERAGE OF PRESS CONFERENCE)
BLITZER: All right. So, there you have it, five minutes from now, the authorities will come to the microphones and tell us what happened. How this little boy was saved?
We want to welcome our viewers not only here in the United States, we want to welcome our viewers around the world who are watching us here in the SITUATION ROOM. For those viewers just tuning in, especially those international viewers, tuning in to the SITUATION ROOM, I'm Wolf Blitzer in Washington.
We're following a dramatic story that's been unfolding in Midland City, Alabama, for seven days. A little 5-year-old, almost six-year- old boy, named Ethan, has been held hostage by a kidnapper, Jimmy Lee Dykes. We're told now that within the past hour or so something happened. There was an explosion. Gunfire, Dykes is dead. The five- year-old Ethan is fine. We're told by a state representative, Steve Klaus, that Ethan is now in Dothan, not far away, at a hospital nearby.
Federal and local authorities are about to brief all of us on what happened, how this unfolded. I believe they're walking over to the microphones right now. They said five minutes from now but maybe they're going to start a little bit earlier. Let's listen in to see if that does start a little bit earlier. But you see the local sheriff. You see other authorities. So let's listen. STEVE RICHARDSON, FBI SPECIAL AGENT IN CHARGE: Good afternoon. I'm Steve Richardson, the special agent in charge of the FBI in Mobile, Alabama. With me today is Sheriff Wally Olson, Colonel Hugh McCall with the Alabama Bureau of Investigation. Major Neil, too, chief of the Alabama Bureau of Investigation.
At approximately 3:12 this afternoon, FBI agents safely recovered the child who's been held hostage for nearly a week. Within the past 24 hours, negotiations deteriorated and Mr. Dykes was observed -- was observed holding a gun. At this point, FBI agents, fearing the child was in imminent danger, entered the bunker and rescued the child.
The child appears physically unharmed and is being treated at a local hospital. The subject is deceased. The resolution to this matter is a direct result of the extraordinary collaboration between law enforcement at all levels. The exhaustive efforts and dedication of this community's law enforcement is truly exemplary. I want to thank everyone in this community that has supported us throughout the past few days.
I know there are several questions that need to be answered and more questions to come. We will have an opportunity to address these later as more details become available.
Thank you very much.
UNIDENTIFIED REPORTER: Steve, can you tell us how the raid went down? Give us the sense of it. How did it all happen?
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: This time, I'd just like to thank everybody for your continued patience. The community's support. We appreciate everybody in law enforcement pulling together to get this job done. Thank you.
UNIDENTIFIED REPORTER: Sheriff, can you give us a sense of how it went down, sir?
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: On behalf of the Alabama Department of Public Safety and Governor Ben of the great state of Alabama, we had all of our resources from the state of Alabama here to assist the sheriff in the safe recovery of the child. And that's the important thing, is that we have a safe recovery of the child. Thank you.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: OK. Again, thank you all. I know there's a lot more details that we're interested in. We'll have that opportunity very soon. We will alert you when that time comes. Thank you.
BLITZER: OK. So there you have the official word, the official confirmation. The little boy Ethan is fine. At least physically. He's in a hospital, a local hospital. We hope with his mom, with his family.
The kidnapper in this case, Jimmy Lee Dykes, is dead. And you heard the description from Steve Richardson, the FBI special agent from Mobile who's in charge of this investigation of this case, kidnapping being a federal crime.
Chris Voss is here with me.
Chris, you're a former lead negotiator for the FBI. When you heard this description, it looked like the situation was deteriorating, they thought the little boy was in danger, and at which point they went into action.
CHRIS VOSS, FORMER LEAD NEGOTIATOR FOR FBI: Yes, absolutely. And he made a telling remark. It's a negotiator's job to keep very close track of what we refer to as this threat level. And they're looking for specific words that might indicate whether it's going up or whether it's going down. So clearly the negotiators had some very strong indicators the threat level was rising and they had to make the decision to move in to save the little boy's life.
BLITZER: Yes, because they thought that the -- the kidnapper, Jimmy Lee Dykes, had a weapon that potentially he could have used against little Ethan.
VOSS: Absolutely. You know, he was under threat at all times. He had a weapon inside there. It's a negotiator's job to try to figure out, you know, how far away he is from making some sort of move against the hostage to kill a little boy. And if they talk to him enough, they can get a pretty good idea when the threat level is rising. And even a timetable that Mr. Dykes might have had for taking that action. So they had to move in because there was an imminent threat.
BLITZER: And so they move in and eyewitnesses said they first heard an explosion followed by gunshots.
BLITZER: So what does that say to you, how do they move in, how do they get the little boy out safely?
VOSS: Well, the explosion would have been a diversion. They needed to move Mr. Dykes' attention to some other area. So that they can movie in and catch him off guard. It was speed and surprise. And that's how they create the surprise.
BLITZER: Because when I hear explosion, I think maybe this is an underground bunker, maybe that explode an area to get in, to get the passage way in. We have a diagram of what it looks like. But it's underground as you can see the size of this bunker.
VOSS: Right. Yes, absolutely. From the very moment the hostage rescue team, hostage negotiators showed up, they would have started planning immediately what they would have to do in the event of an emergency assault. And if they have to make the decisions, the negotiator's job to support that assault.
BLITZER: And the FBI has trained personnel who are -- who have practiced, would know how to do this thing? VOSS: A hostage rescue team that's why they're there. They're a counterterrorist response team and they're capable of moving in to situations like this and getting the job done.
BLITZER: So the FBI goes in to a town like Midland City, Alabama, and they take charge of this operation?
VOSS: Well, it's not so much taking charge but helping put the team together so that everybody can collaborate. The senior level officials of all the agencies who you just saw at the microphone, they need to work together as a team. And it's not as important as who's in charge but exactly how well they work together as a team.
BLITZER: And you understand why they didn't want to take reporter's questions at this early stage. They want to make sure, I assume, that they have all the information precise instead of giving out some information that might not be accurate.
VOSS: Exactly. All of this has happened so quickly. And there's still a lot of things that they need to make sure that they know before they report it. They're doing as much as they can to get the information out and make sure that it's all right.
BLITZER: Now if they would have succeeded in convincing the kidnapper to give up and just walk out, hand over the little boy, and then you take this kidnapper into custody, that would have been a better outcome I assume than killing this guy?
VOSS: Absolutely. That was the emphasis for the negotiations from the very beginning. They show up on the scene and they want to save everybody's life. They want to bring everybody out alive. And that's if the hostage holder is going to let them do it. If the kidnapper lets them. If he dictates that it's going in another direction, then law enforcement responds.
BLITZER: I assume when they went in there he was shot and killed because he was getting ready to take action and there was a threat to those who are coming in the FBI -- the FBI team.
VOSS: Absolutely. He would have been an imminent threat more so to the hostage than to the law enforcement coming in. They go in to save lives and to eliminate a threat.
BLITZER: So this is obviously not the perfect outcome but at least that little boy is OK. He's in a local hospital we are told in Dothan over there.
Let me bring in Lisa Van Susteren to help us a little -- appreciate what the family of this little Ethan is about to endure.
Walk us through this process. We heard the FBI agent -- Lisa, you heard him say that physically Ethan is unharmed, physically.
LISA VAN SUSTEREN, CLINICAL PSYCHOLOGIST (via phone): Yes, of course, the issue is how he is psychologically and how his family is and the community is psychologically. You do suffer from the accumulative impact of all these incidents, certainly the community does. We've had a lot of incidents, obviously, in the last couple of months.
For the family, obviously, it can't get any worse than having something like this happen. On the positive side, it's clear that the whole nation has been stopped. Looking at this. Wondering about this. The level of professionalism and this hostage rescue team, these are all things that the family will find comfort, in addition, knowing that the larger community was so involved in this.
Their own perception of safety is going to be a real important ingredient in their child's perception of safety going forward. If they feel that they have gotten over this, it will be an immense help in getting their little boy to recover from that.
BLITZER: Certainly will. A lot of work is going to be needed. But a lot of love and attention obviously will be devoted to little Ethan.
Let me read a statement we just got in from the Alabama governor. Robert Bentley just issued a statement. "I am thankful that the child who is abducted is now safe. I am so happy this little boy can now be reunited with his family and friends. We will all continue to pray for the little boy and his family as they recover from the trauma of the last several days."
The governor's statement adds, "At the same time, we also want to remember the family and friends of the bus driver, Charles Poland Jr. This man was a true hero who was willing to give up his life so others might live. We are all inspired by his courage and bravery.
Well said by the governor of Alabama, Robert Bentley.
Martin Savidge is there in Midland City.
Martin, short, to the point, the FBI agent, the sheriff, the state representatives, they just made their brief statement. The details will come. But the bottom line, headline is, and it's a good one, that little 5-year-old Ethan is OK.
MARTIN SAVIDGE, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Right, yes, I mean, that basically is everything that people wanted to hear, at least here and certainly across the country. They said that the FBI hostage rescue teams made an entry. It was around 3:12. They say they decided to move first with an explosion, then of course with gunfire. And that's exactly what the witnesses have said.
But they made that move because over the last 24 hours they say that their negotiations with Mr. Dykes had begun to deteriorate and then he was observed with a gun and of course fearing, as always, tantamount, for the safety of that little boy, they made their move, they moved extremely quickly and apparently they move very effectively.
The 5-year-old boy now has been taken to nearby Dothan. That's just a couple of miles down the road. He's going to be checked out. And of course then he's going to be reunited with his family. And we should also point out that Wednesday is the day that 5-year-old turns 6. So perhaps not the best of endings but it is a happy ending for many people in this community because above all Ethan, as they say, is safe.
BLITZER: I hope he's -- he's already been reunited with his family in that hospital. Martin Savidge, thanks very much. We'll continue to watch. We'll stand by for the news conference when they come out and tell us exactly how this unfolded. We'll have coverage, obviously, of that as well.
The bottom line, Ethan is OK. The kidnapper, Jimmy Lee Dykes, is dead. Our coverage will continue, all the day's other news as well. Lots of important developments. We'll be right back.
BLITZER: Welcome back to THE SITUATION ROOM. I'm Wolf Blitzer in Washington.
President Obama brought his push for new gun control legislation in Minneapolis today, calling for a comprehensive package of steps against gun violence. But there's growing doubt one of the steps he can -- he's seeking can actually be taken. A ban on assault-type of weapons. It faces an uphill battle in Congress which gun control advocates and even the president himself seemed to acknowledge.
Our White House correspondent Brianna Keilar is joining us now with more.
What's the latest, Brianna, that you're hearing on this sensitive front?
BRIANNA KEILAR, CNN WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT: Wolf, publicly, as you heard, President Obama is still pushing for this assault weapons ban. But he seemed to acknowledge reality today that it's background checks where there is consensus.
And I'll tell you, even privately, talking amongst themselves, aides, since December, have really pushed the fact that it's background checks where they think that they'll have the most luck. This as scrutiny of the president's own experiences shooting a gun have come to get a closer look.
KEILAR (voice-over): Proof that President Obama has been skeet shooting. A picture from last August released by the White House this weekend. David Plouffe, a former Obama aide, tweeted, "Attention skeet birthers. Make our day. Let the Photoshop conspiracies begin."
Some critics did question if the photo was real. Highlighting the mistrust gun rights advocates have of President Obama as he tackles of issue of gun violence.
BARACK OBAMA, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: We don't have to agree on everything to agree it's time to do something.
KEILAR: In Minneapolis, he repeated his call for a ban on military-style assault weapons.
OBAMA: That deserves a vote in Congress because weapons of war have no place on our streets, or in our schools or threatening our law enforcement officers.
KEILAR: The measure lacks support in Congress. Even among some Democrats like Senate majority leader Harry Reid. He was asked this weekend if he would support it.
SEN. HARRY REID (D), MAJORITY LEADER: I don't know. I didn't vote for the assault weapons last time because of this. It didn't make sense. But I'll take a look at it. I think that everyone acknowledges we should do something with background checks.
KEILAR: President Obama seemed to acknowledge a law requiring background checks for all gun purchases is more likely to clear Congress.
OBAMA: The vast majority of Americans, including a majority of gun owners, support requiring criminal background checks for anyone trying to buy a gun.
KEILAR: But the NRA is not on board.
WAYNE LAPIERRE, NATIONAL RIFLE ASSOCIATION: I think what they'll do is they'll turn this universal check on the law-abiding into a universal registry of law-abiding people.
KEILAR: That wasn't always Wayne LaPierre's position.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: The NRA once supported background checks.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
KEILAR: A group of more than 800 mayors ran this ad in Washington, D.C. during the Super Bowl. Drawing attention to the group's past support for universal background checks.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
LAPIERRE: No loopholes anywhere for anyone.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
KEILAR: And President Obama said today in Minneapolis essentially that the NRA is not speaking for its members when it comes to background checks, Wolf. He said that he is pursuing no legislation that would limit Second Amendment rights. And obviously the White House feels that the NRA is saying that he is. BLITZER: Brianna Keilar at the White House for us. Obviously a very, very important story as well. Thank you.
The president is meeting with opposition on another front as well. His nomination of Jack Lew to be the next Treasury secretary.
Our chief congressional correspondent Dana Bash has some details on apparently some growing Republican opposition.
DANA BASH, CNN SENIOR CONGRESSIONAL CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): It's the most serious of accusations. Republicans say the president's nominee for Treasury secretary may have broken federal law. This letter signed by eight Senate Republicans accuses Jack Lew of failing to warn Congress about a Medicare funding problem when he was the president's budget director.
It's just the latest shot across the bow from Republican Jeff Sessions who is openly trying to sink Lew's nomination. Sessions also says Lew deceived Congress by making false statements at this the 2011 hearing.
SEN. JEFF SESSIONS (R), ALABAMA: I believe Mr. Lew is flatly in error.
BASH: Sessions was pressing Lew about a claim he made on CNN's "STATE OF THE UNION," that the president's election year 2012 budget would not add to the debt or deficit.
JACK LEW, TREASURY SECRETARY NOMINEE: Our budget will get us over the next several years to the point where we can look at the American people in the eye and say, we're not adding to the debt anymore.
SESSIONS: Does this budget do it?
LEW: I think we get to the point where we --
SESSIONS: Does it do it?
LEW: It gets us to the point where we stop adding to the problem where there are new spending. And that --
SESSIONS: That goes up every year and the deficit is -- the debt has increased.
It was breathtakingly false.
BASH: In a telephone interview with CNN, Sessions minced no words about his opposition to Lew for Treasury secretary.
SESSIONS: He's misrepresented fundamentally what he -- the budget that he has produced, and doesn't have any of a normal financial so sophistication that you would look for in a secretary of Treasury.
BASH: An administration official defended Lew's claim that the president's budget wouldn't add to the debt, saying it's accurate if you don't account for the interest owed on the debt. Sessions doesn't buy it. Now or then.
LEW: I respect your position, Senator.
SESSIONS: Well, I'm not -- I can't respect a position that suggests this budget reduces the debt. If you take that position, we're talking beyond each other.
BASH (on camera): And administration official I spoke with pushed back against the notion that Lew deceived Congress or broke any laws. As for Sessions, he is clearly voting against Lew's nomination and is trying to rally other Republicans to do the same. But he says he is not quite sure yet whether he will try to filibuster Lew which would mean he would require 60 votes to get confirmed.
Dana Bash --
BLITZER: Dana Bash, reporting for us.
The grim end to a heartbreaking search. Now a murder investigation. Who killed this New York mother of two while she was visiting Turkey?
BLITZER: A jail in Texas used a taser today on the man suspected of killing a well-known former Navy sniper and another man at a shooting range on Saturday. Eddie Ray Routh is on a suicide watch and under 24-hour surveillance. Jail officials say he's receiving death threats. Officials say they used a taser on him when he became aggressive with guards.
He's facing murder charges in the death of Chris Kyle, author of the best-selling "American Sniper," and another veteran, Chad Littlefield, who had taken Routh to a shooting range Saturday.
Joining us now, Sanjay, there's one notion out there that Kyle and Littlefield brought this suspect to this range for what was described as exposure therapy. What -- what exactly is that?
DR. SANJAY GUPTA, CNN CHIEF MEDICAL CORRESPONDENT: Yes, I had heard that as well, Wolf. Hard to know for sure, but what exposure therapy is, it's something that has been around for a while. Trying to slowly expose people who are suffering from PTSD, post traumatic stress disorder, trying to expose them slowly to what that traumatic event was.
With PTSD typically you have a magnified reaction to some sort of event. So whether it'd be a loud noise, even a smell can trigger these flashbacks and it can be very haunting. About 20 percent of returning veterans, they predict, Wolf, have or will have PTSD. There's not much that works. So this exposure therapy slowly, almost like inoculate, like a vaccine, people back to that traumatic event. And then talk them through it.
It should be stressed, Wolf, this is typically done in a very controlled setting. You might imagine why because you're basically trying to get people to relive this. They used to have people talk through this in the past. But now with this exposure immersive therapy, sometimes they'll immerse them in similar situations to what caused the trauma in the first place.
BLITZER: The former congressman, Ron Paul, not Rand Paul, his son, but Ron Paul, who is a physician as you know, he tweeted this and I'll put it up on the screen. He tweeted, "Chris Kyle's death seems to confirm that he who lives by the sword dies by the sword. Treating PTSD, post traumatic stress disorder, at a firing range doesn't make sense."
Does this therapy -- does it make any sense, though?
GUPTA: Well, I think he's right in the sense that this should be done by someone who is a professional in a very controlled setting. But the exposure therapy as a general rule does -- starting to build some pretty good evidence behind how it might be able to work, keeping in mind there are not very good treatments at all that exist for PTSD. So, for example, we did a story not that long ago looking at something known as virtual reality for the treatment of PTSD.
You know, having covered the war in Iraq and Afghanistan, I went through this myself where they actually put this virtual reality helmet on you and slowly immersed you back in situations, whether it'd be a convoy ride that came under fire, whatever it may be, and then they talk you through these situations as you're going through it.
And I'll tell you, in small studies, Wolf, the effectiveness has been up to 80 percent in treating the symptoms of PTSD. So exposure therapy as a whole can work. Whether it involves taking people to a firing range by someone who's not a trained professional, that -- I mean, that may have been what the congressman was referring to.
BLITZER: Now we -- I just want to be precise. We don't know for sure that this suspect even had PTSD. We're talking a lot about it. But what about violence among those veterans who do come back with PTSD and a significant percentage of troops who served in a war do come back and they have to be treated.
Is violence part of -- part of the impact of what this PTSD can cause?
GUPTA: I think the best way to answer that is to say that it can be. And I don't mean to be evasive here, but this is a -- first of all, if you look at all violent episodes involving guns or otherwise, most of them don't occur in people who -- by people who had PTSD. That's just as a whole. And people who do PTSD and have episodes of violence, it is typically reactive violence. It is not typically preplanned or predatory violence. So, you know, I think that that matters in terms of description here but it can occur. You know, and certainly the violence can be associated with this and that's, I think, in part why when you hear about any of these descriptions of immersive or exposure therapy has to be done in a very controlled setting, again, by people who are trained to do exactly that.
BLITZER: Sanjay Gupta, as usual, thanks very much.
I just want to remind our viewers later tonight 10:00 p.m. Eastern on our sister network, TNT, Sanjay's "Monday Mornings of Drama" -- and you've written the basis for this new drama -- premiers. I'm going to be looking forward to seeing it, Sanjay.
GUPTA: Thanks, Wolf.
BLITZER: I know a lot of our viewers will, as well. 10:00 p.m. Eastern, later tonight on TNT.
GUPTA: Thanks, Wolf.
BLITZER: And we'll be right back at the top of the hour. Senator Menendez has just spoken to our own Dana Bash. Get ready for that.