MIDLAND CITY, Ala. — The confrontation between an armed intruder and school bus driver Charles Poland lasted more than four minutes, with Poland standing in the aisle to block the gunman from his students and refusing to move, according to a report from CNN.
The Dale County Schools bus was equipped with a video surveillance camera, which recorded the incident.
Citing sources who had been briefed on the video footage and witness statements, CNN reported that when Jimmy Lee Dykes boarded the bus with a gun and handed Poland a note demanding hostages, Poland stood in the aisle to block Dykes — despite the gunman telling him more than once that he would kill Poland if he got in the way.
Meanwhile, students in the back of the bus, drawing on their twice-per-year emergency evacuation training, opened the rear emergency exit so the passengers could escape.
After about four and a half minutes, Dykes allegedly shot Poland four times, killing him. Dykes then took one hostage, 5-year-old Ethan, who was sitting at the front of the bus.
Nearly a week later, after FBI agents stormed Dykes’ bunker and rescued Ethan, Dale County Schools Superintendent Donny Bynum thanked Poland “for the ultimate sacrifice” and said that “when all the information from this tragic event is revealed, we will clearly see a mighty man of God.”
Later, Bynum told the Dothan Eagle that he had spoken with an FBI agent who was familiar with the bus surveillance video and who confirmed Poland’s heroic actions.
“[The agent] said, ‘We don’t use the term hero very often, but there is no doubt that Mr. Poland was a true hero and he saved the lives of all those students on the bus,’ because it could’ve been catastrophic if more children were taken off that bus and put in the bunker,” Bynum told the Dothan Eagle. “[Poland] told [Dykes] something to the extent of, ‘These are my students, they are my responsibility, and you are not taking them off this bus.’”