Funeral Service Held For Bus Driver Hailed As Hero
OZARK, Ala. (CNN) – Charles Albert Poland Jr., 66, was killed last week when he tried to shield children from a gunman, who police say boarded a bus, shot Poland and grabbed a 5-year-old boy.
The suspect and the boy remained barricaded in an underground bunker in Midland City on Sunday, as the standoff stretched into its sixth day.
UPDATE: The standoff ended Monday afternoon when FBI agents stormed the bunker to rescue the boy. Ethan was removed safely and taken to a nearby hospital to be checked. The alleged gunman, Jimmy Lee Dykes, was killed.
“I’m sad to see you gone. You didn’t deserve to die, but you died knowing you kept everyone safe,” read a letter from a student.
Donny Bynum, the superintendent of Dale County schools, read the letter and several others at Poland’s funeral, which was held at the Ozark Civic Center.
“Being on your bus has been some of the best times of my life,” read a second letter.
“I will miss your big, smiling face,” read a third.
Poland was remembered as a loving husband, father and “paw-paw,” who would do anything for his grandchildren. He was the type who brought students ice water on hot days.
According to authorities and witnesses, on Tuesday at about 3:40 p.m., Poland was shuttling children from school to their homes when he dropped students off and the suspect boarded the bus.
The gunman demanded that Poland hand over two children. Poland refused, blocking access to the bus’s narrow aisle as at least 21 children escaped out of the back emergency door, police said.
The gunman shot Poland four times, killing him, grabbed the kindergartener and then barricaded the himself and the boy inside a nearby bunker.
“Charles Albert Poland was a hero,” Bynum said.