Charles Albert Poland Jr., 66, has been identified as the bus driver who was shot after refusing to hand over children from his school bus. The ongoing crisis continues in Alabama; but one must not forget Poland, who died while defending 21 children.
The details are trickling in from the police, who have been dealing with a hostage situation going on three days now. When the gunman came onto the bus, he said he "wanted two boys 6 to 8 years old," as reported by CBS News. He started down the aisle and the children "scrambled" toward the back of the bus. That is when Poland "put his arm out to grab a pole near the front steps of the vehicle, trying to block the suspect." He was shot four times at that point and the gunman randomly grabbed a five-year-old boy and fled. The standoff has put the small town with a scant population of 2,300 people in the spotlight.
The man who shot Poland is clearly mentally disturbed. Neighbors have plenty to say about the shooter. In fact, he was "scheduled to appear in court Wednesday to face a charge of menacing some neighbors as they drove by his house". Mike and Patricia Smith live across the street from the suspect and had two children on the school bus. They described how their crazy neighbor threatened to shoot their kids after they went to retrieve their bulldogs who wandered on his property. "He's very paranoid," Mr. Smith said. "He goes around in his yard at night with a flashlight and shotgun." Other stories have emerged of the killer beating neighbor Ronda Wilbur's dog, resulting in the animal's death a week later. Does the gunman have a family? Was he ever treated for his mental problems?
It is unimaginable what the family of the abducted child is going through, as the boy continues to be in the "bunker" with the lunatic gunman. While the focus is mainly on assuring the child's safe return; one cannot forget the bus driver, Charles Albert Poland Jr., a man who gave his life while protecting the children on his bus, and a true hero.
Photo Source: AP Photo / Dale County Board of Education via CSMonitor