A community prepared to bury a beloved bus driver who was shot to death trying to protect the children on his bus, including a five-year-old boy allegedly taken hostage by the shooter, who is now in a standoff with police entering its sixth day.
Charles Albert Poland Jr, 66, who was known around the town of Newton as Chuck, was described by people in his hometown as a humble hero.
Midland City residents held out hope that the standoff would end safely and mourned for the slain bus driver and his family. Candlelight vigils have been held nightly since the standoff began.
Hundreds of people attended a viewing service for Poland on Saturday evening. His funeral was set for Sunday afternoon.
“I believe that if he had to do it all over again tomorrow, he would,” said Poland’s sister-in-law, Lavern Skipper.
“He would do it for those children.”
Authorities said Jim Lee Dykes boarded a stopped school bus filled with 21 children Tuesday afternoon and demanded two boys between six and eight years old.
When Poland tried to block his way, the gunman shot him several times and took one five-year-old boy - who police say remains in an underground bunker with Dykes.
Sheriff Wally Olson said in a briefing with reporters on Saturday that Dykes has told them he has blankets and an electric heater in the bunker on his property.
Authorities have set up a command post at a church and have been communicating with Dykes through a ventilation pipe to the underground bunker.
Olson also said Dykes has allowed police to deliver colouring books, medication and toys for the boy.
“I want to thank him for taking care of our boy,” Olson said. “That’s very important.”
Olson would not say whether Dykes, a Vietnam veteran, has made any demands.