published Saturday, August 23rd, 2014

FBI honors negotiator in Alabama bunker standoff

  • photo
    Heavily armed men move away from the suspects home at the scene of a Dale County hostage scene in Midland City, Ala., in this file photo.
    Photo by Associated Press /Chattanooga Times Free Press.

DOTHAN, Ala. — The sheriff's captain who served as the primary negotiator during a bunker standoff last year in Alabama has been honored for his role in the safe rescue of a young boy held hostage for nearly a week.

FBI Director James B. Comey recently presented the FBI Medal for Meritorious Achievement to Houston County Sheriff's Capt. Bill Rafferty, according to The Dothan Eagle.

In January 2013, a gunman boarded a school bus demanding children, and then shot and killed the bus driver after he refused. One boy was kidnapped and kept for six days until FBI agents stormed the underground bunker and killed the suspect, 65-year-old Jimmy Lee Dykes. The boy, then-5-year-old Ethan Gilman, was not harmed.

Officials said Rafferty established a rapport with Dykes, talking to him 12 hours a day while the FBI crafted a rescue plan.

"His brave actions had a calming effect on the gunman and provided law enforcement with vital intelligence," officials wrote in the award ceremony program. "Rafferty kept the gunman distracted while the Hostage Rescue Team (HRT) stormed the bunker, therefore preventing him from detonating an IED that was in his possession. The HRT team rescued the child unharmed."

Rafferty had completed special crisis negotiator training prior to the standoff.

"We really and truly tried to talk him out of there. Nobody wanted to use force," Rafferty said. "The ending of the Midland City bunker situation was the best outcome Jimmy Lee Dykes allowed. The main thing is Ethan came out with just a scratch."

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