School bus shooting, child kidnapping has students thinking about safety issues

Written by: 
Robinia Tan~Multimedia Journalist

A shooting of a school bus driver in Alabama and the abduction of a 5-year-old boy from the bus by the shooter has BYU-Hawaii students thinking about increasing safety awareness and also the heroic actions of the bus driver who stood up to the kidnapper.

“It reminds me of all the other shootings that have occurred. So many must have live in fear,” said Fu’a Jahuke a senior studying political science from India. She also said the authorities should provide more “protection and awareness about what we can do.”

Caroline Fa’anunu, a freshman in clinical social work from California, said, “It makes me feel safer to know that there are people willing to put their life down through courageous action like that, cause some people would just be like too scared to do anything. They kind of just wait it out.”

Alabama resident Charles Albert Poland Jr., the 66-year-old bus driver of 21 students, was shot four times on Jan. 29, killing him when he refused to hand over two children that were demanded by a shooter who boarded the bus as it was making a routine stop, reports MailOnline.

Reportedly the shooter, survivalist Jimmy Lee Dykes, hopped on the bus and said he wanted two boys ages 6 to 8 right away or he would shoot the bus driver, it says. Poland knew Dykes and talked with him for several minutes while opening the emergency exit allowing all the students but 5-year-old Ethan to escape. Ethan was sitting in the front seat of the bus and was frozen in place rather than escaping with the other children.

When Dykes said he was going to take Ethan, Poland reportedly said, "Sorry, you're going to have to shoot me," says an All Alabama online article. Then Dykes shot the bus driver and kidnapped Ethan, who has a form of autism.

Dykes took the child and hide in an underground bunker fortifying it against any attempted of forced entry. The FBI negotiated for the boy’s release and delivered food, medicine, toys, and other item into the bunker, which was almost identical to a tornado shelter with running water, heat, and cable television.

Later on, the officers stormed in the bunker and successfully rescued the 5-year-old boy leaving Dykes dead on Feb. 4.

The 5-year-old boy appeared to be doing well after being freed playing with toy figurine and watching “SpongeBob SquarePants.”

“We know he’s okay physically, but we don’t know how he is mentally,” said Betty Jean Ransbottom, the boy’s grandmother. She said she knows the ordeal will leave a mark on the child, who is now 6, for the rest of his life.

“It just goes to show how unsafe our society is becoming,” said Courtney McCarthy, a senior social work major from New Zealand. “It is harder to trust, and it is important that we educate the children and teach them to be cautious of events that happen.”