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SWAT

Inside the FBI's Alabama Bunker Raid

FBI tactical agents trained using a mock bunker near the Midland City site.

February 05, 2013  |  by - Also by this author

FBI HRT operators (not at Alabama hostage site). Photo courtesy of FBI.
FBI HRT operators (not at Alabama hostage site). Photo courtesy of FBI.

The carefully orchestrated raid that ended a hostage standoff at a survivalist's bunker in Midland City, Ala., was a SWAT tactic of last resort for the FBI's Hostage Rescue Team (HRT).

HRT operators used explosives to breach the 6-by-8-foot bunker after distraction devices were dropped inside, stormed the bunker, shot and killed the suspect, and rescued 5-year-old hostage Ethan unharmed.

The FBI hasn't released much official information about the raid itself, but media reports quoting law enforcement sources have provided some of the puzzle pieces to what was a nearly flawless operation by elite law enforcement personnel.

The Monday raid was triggered by the "downward psychological spiral" of kidnapper Jimmy Lee Dykes, reports ABC News.

"A dynamic entry with explosive breaching is kind of the last resort for tactical situations," Mark Lomax, executive director of the National Tactical Officers Association, told POLICE Magazine. "Usually they're used when time is of the essence and that necessitates that kind of entry."

The FBI's HRT had a full deployment on the scene, which included the crisis negotiation unit, FBI SWAT operations, tactical intelligence, and a behavioral sciences unit, reports the Dothan Eagle.

Agents had been monitoring the 65-year-old Dykes via a hidden camera and saw him wielding a gun and looking agitated, reports NPR. Agents had been in constant communication with Dykes via a mobile phone in the days leading up to the 3:12 p.m. raid. Negotiations had broken down, reports the New York Times.

Secretary of Defense Leon Panetta had approved the use of certain equipment in the hostage situation, reports CBS News. It's not clear if that equipment was used.

In the days leading up to the raid, HRT operators built a mock bunker near the site so they could train for the raid, reports ABC News. During the standoff, Dykes allowed agents to pass items to Ethan such as toys, crayons, and medication because Ethan suffers from Asperger's syndrome and attention deficit hyperactivity disorder.

As HRT operators readied themselves for the raid, negotiators apparently convinced Dykes to provide an opening to the bunker. Two distraction devices were dropped inside, before operators breached the bunker from the top. Within seconds, three or four HRT operators grabbed Ethan and killed Dykes.

Investigators later found two bombs on the property—one inside the bunker and another inside the plastic pipe used to negotiate with Dykes, reports the Associated Press.

Dykes had been holding Ethan in the bunker since Jan. 30, when he stormed a school bus and fatally shot driver Charles Albert Poland, 66.

The HRT, which now has 90 full-time members, is a domestic counter-terrorism unit for high-risk hostage scenarios. The team's motto is the Latin "Servare Vitas" (To Save Lives).

Related:

FBI Raid Frees Child from Ala. Abductor

Negotiators Talking To Ala. Captor Through Pipe

Gunman Kills Bus Driver, Kidnaps Autistic Boy

Tags: SWAT Tactics, Dynamic Entries, Survivalists, Deadly Force, Hostage Situations


Comments (9)

Displaying 1 - 9 of 9

Donutplz @ 2/5/2013 6:12 PM

Nice Job HRT! Glad everything worked out!

John @ 2/5/2013 6:34 PM

Great job. Too bad the same restraint wasn't used in the past. I'm sure Randy Weaver would have appreciated not having most of his family murdered by the feds.

Arnelle @ 2/5/2013 9:28 PM

OUTSTANDING on a very challenging breach and entry!

Adam M. @ 2/6/2013 12:17 PM

I am confused... and quite possibly ignorant to how the SecDef has any say in a domestic situation such as this? Would this not be an Atty Gen area? Absolutely not taking anything away from the great job the FBI crew did. The situation ended with the child being saved... perfect.

John Russell @ 2/6/2013 1:45 PM

Very risky even with the minature camera this OLD NUT could have had the whole bunker Rigged perhaps even the whole area with land mines and other assorted systems? Well at least thing went well and child came out very unharmed.

Augie M. @ 2/6/2013 8:52 PM

Awesome job to FBI, state and local LE. Everybody put in thier time on this one. And the little boy went home to his family, and Dykes is taking the dirt nap he deserves.

Tom ret @ 2/27/2013 4:52 PM

The less the public knows about the methods used the better.

Mike RIley @ 2/28/2013 4:45 AM

First off, Congratulations to the HRT, Job welldone. AWSOME PLANNING but why in the HELL would you give out that much information on you tactics. Teams from around the world were trying to figure out how they would have handled this operation and were in awe. All infromation on the tactics should have been LE sensitive. It seems that we are getting into the same mind set as the Military Brass, in that we give to much information to the media on our Tier One Teams. Keep the evil MotherF#@!ers guessing then destroy them!

Trigger @ 3/1/2013 10:49 AM

Now Mike RIley you are getting too excited over small stuff, after all don't you know that our commander in chieft wants everyone to know everything about anything except his business. Great job HRT.

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