A gunman who held a five-year-old boy hostage in an underground bunker in rural Alabama for nearly a week was killed on Monday and the child was plucked to safety without injury, law enforcement officials said.
FBI agents entered the bunker to rescue the child after fearing that he was in "imminent danger," said Steve Richardson, special agent in charge in Mobile.
Negotiations with the suspect, identified as 65-year-old Jimmy Lee Dykes, had deteriorated during the previous 24 hours, Richardson said during a televised news conference.
"Mr. Dykes was observed holding a gun," the FBI agent said.
The rescue of the boy came on the seventh day of a standoff in a rural corner of southeast Alabama involving Dykes, a retired trucker and veteran of the war in Vietnam.
The child was being treated at a local hospital, but was physically unharmed, Richardson added.
It was not immediately clear how Dykes died.
Dykes seized the kindergarten student last Tuesday after boarding a school bus near his home and killing its driver with four shots from a 9 mm handgun, local sheriff's department officials said.
A local law enforcement source said a stun or flash grenade was detonated as part of the operation to free the boy, but further details were not immediately released.
The drama near Midland City, Alabama, came amid heightened concerns about gun violence and school safety across the United States after the December shooting deaths of 20 children and six adults at a Connecticut elementary school.
(Reporting by Tom Brown and Colleen Jenkins; editing by Dan Grebler, G Crosse)