Local Hostage Negotiators Talk Midland City Crisis

Morgan County, Ala. (WHNT) – Local law enforcement all over the Tennessee Valley has dozens of men and women trained to deal with hostage situations.

At the end of a nearly week-long standoff crisis in Midland City WHNT News 19 spoke with local negotiators to gain perspective on the challenges the multiple agencies staged in south Alabama have faced over the past week.

“You make no overt demands–you don’t make demands–you’re just talking.”

Morgan County Sheriff’s Office Sergeant Terry Kelly received hostage training initially in the United States Air Force as a security officer. Kelly says no matter how belabored, constant communication in hostage situations is key.

“As long as there is a dialogue going on, you keep that dialogue going,” says sergeant Kelly. “I know it gets frustrating and it seems like everybody wants to say ‘well why don’t you just go in and rescue the child?’ — Well it’s just not that simple.”

Kelly says time is actually on the side of the good guys in hostage situations.

“When a dialogue stops it becomes time when other avenues need to be looked at and possibly implemented, but as long as they’re talking, that’s a good thing.”

Kelly says entering the bunker could have proven dangerous not only to the innocent hostage inside but to law enforcement as well; he says patience is always the best policy, but luckily when the time came to act officials did not miss their mark and secured the five-year-old child safely.

“I feel confident everyone involved down there handled this situation the best way it could have been handled.”

Kelly says negotiators in Midland City were dealing with not only a circumstance where the offender was in control but also one where mental status was unknown and unpredictable. He says negotiators usually rely on the offender building a connection with their victim; a humanization of the hostage.

“But this person who does something like this,” says Kelly, “this is not an average every day ordinary person. He has psychological issues or emotional issues that have made him take this route, so it’s a difficult thing.”

Dale County officials confirmed in a news conference shortly after 4:30p.m. the alleged gunman, Jimmy Lee Dykes, is dead.