Hostage negotiators in rural Alabama are trying to talk a gunman into releasing a five-year-old boy and ending a stand-off at an underground bunker by speaking into a ventilation pipe.
The man, identified by neighbours and witnesses as retired lorry driver Jimmy Dykes, 65, was accused of dragging the boy from a school bus in Midland City on Tuesday after shooting dead the driver.
The man and boy are in a small room on his property that authorities compared to tornado shelters common in the area.
James Arrington, police chief of the neighbouring town of Pinckard, said the shelter was about 4ft underground, with a ventilation pipe that negotiators were speaking through.
There were signs that the stand-off could continue for some time - a state politician said the shelter had electricity, food and TV. The police chief said the captor has been sleeping and told negotiators that he has spent long periods in the shelter before.
"He will have to give up sooner or later because (authorities) are not leaving," Mr Arrington said. "It's pretty small, but he's been known to stay in there eight days."
Midland City mayor Virgil Skipper said he had been briefed by law enforcement and visited with the boy's parents. "He's crying for his parents," he said. "They are holding up good. They are praying and asking all of us to pray with them."
The normally quiet red clay road was teeming with more than a dozen police cars and trucks, a fire engine, a helicopter, officers from multiple agencies, media and at least one ambulance near Midland City, which has a population of 2,300.
The stand-off in bible-belt Alabama is one of a string of attacks involving a gun to capture national attention amid a fierce debate over gun control in the aftermath of a December massacre of 10 children and six adults at a Connecticut primary school.
Republican state congressman Steve Clouse, who represents the Midland City area, said he visited the boy's mother and that she was "hanging on by a thread". "Everybody is praying with her for the boy," he said.