A tense standoff moved into its second day as police negotiated with a man who murdered a school bus driver before taking a five-year-old boy at random with him into a rural underground bunker.
Police said that they were negotiating with the suspect through a ventilation pipe.
Neighbours identified the suspect as Jimmy Lee Dykes, a 65-year-old retired truck driver who had moved to the Alabama neighbourhood more than a year ago.
It didn't take long before he developed a frightening reputation as a volatile man with anti-government views who threatened his neighbours at gunpoint and was vicious to wandering pets.
The boy was watching TV in the bunker and getting medication sent from home, according to state representative Steve Clouse, who met with authorities and visited the boy's family.
Mr Clouse said the bunker had food and electricity.
Authorities lowered medicine into the bunker for the boy after his captor agreed to it, Mr Clouse said.
"He will have to give up sooner or later because (authorities) are not leaving," said the police chief of the adjacent town of Pinckard, James Arrington.
"It's pretty small, but he's been known to stay in there eight days."
Mr Arrington said Dykes holds strong anti-government views and the FBI has reason to believe the shooting was a hate crime.
"He's against the government – starting with President Obama on down," Mr Arrington said.
"He doesn't like law enforcement or the government telling him what to do. He's just a loner."
Police negotiators tried to win the boy's safe release.
"As far as we know there is no relation at all. He just wanted a child for a hostage situation," said Michael Senn, a pastor who helped comfort traumatised children after the attack.
The situation remained unchanged for hours as negotiators continued talking to the suspect, Alabama State Trooper Charles Dysart told a news conference late on Wednesday.
Earlier in the day, Sheriff Wally Olson said authorities had "no reason to believe that the child has been harmed".
Authorities gave no details of the standoff, and it was unclear if Dykes made any demands.
The bus driver, Charles Albert Poland Jr (66), pictured, was hailed by locals as a hero who gave his life to protect the 21 students aboard the bus.
Authorities say most of the students scrambled to the back of the bus when the gunman boarded and said he wanted two boys six to eight years old.
When the gunman went down the aisle, authorities said, Mr Poland tried to block him. That's when authorities say the driver was shot four times before the gunman grabbed the child at random and fled.
Neighbours said Dykes was a man who once beat a dog to death with a lead pipe, threatened to shoot children for setting foot on his property and patrolled his yard at night with a flashlight and a shotgun.
He had been scheduled to appear in court Wednesday morning to answer charges he shot at his neighbours in a dispute last month over a speed bump on the road.