Nightly News   |  February 05, 2013

Daring FBI operation rescues 5-year-old Ethan

Five days into the standoff between 65-year-old Jimmy Lee Dykes and law enforcement, FBI agents were ready to move after having built a mock-up of the bunker nearby. NBC’s Gabe Gutierrez reports.

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>>> we are learning much more tonight about the breaking story we brought you here last night. the dramatic rescue of a 5-year-old boy, after a standoff in alabama that lasted almost a week. nbc's gabe gutierrez is with us tonight from midland city, alabama . gabe, good evening.

>> brian, good evening. today ethan 's mother broke her silence. in a written statement she said i woke up this morning to the most beautiful sight, my sweet boy. i can't describe how incredible it is to hold him again. at the hospital today, there were no signs of the ordeal young ethan , seen here in earlier photos, has been through.

>> he was running around the hospital room, putting sticky notes on everyone that was in there. eating a turkey sandwich . and watching strongbob.

>> reporter: at the site of the standoff, federal bomb technicians are searching for possible explosives, as details emerge, we're learning the fbi operation to free ethan was calculated, meticulous, and daring.

>> i thought that the fbi action yesterday was exemplary, and as i think more details are shared, you will understand why i use the word exemplary.

>> reporter: we now know that five days into the standoff, while 65-year-old jimmy lee dykes held ethan hostage underground, police say their daily negotiations deteriorated. dykes appeared more unstable and yesterday started carrying a gun. negotiators knew that, police sources say, because of a secret camera the team somehow managed to sneak into the bunker. but agents were ready to move. they had built a mock-up of the bunker nearby and practiced rescue attempts.

>> you want to create that two, three-second window of opportunity emotionally where the tactical team can go in, take the person by surprise.

>> reporter: when they believed ethan was in danger, they yanked open the bunker's hatch and swooped in. law enforcement sources say they distracted dykes with a flash bang then rushed in and grabbed the boy. autopsy results are pending to confirm whether it was a fatal gunshot that killed dykes. as for his motive, investigators say they may never know why he demanded random hostages on a school bus .

>> he kept picking children, i want you, you, you and you.

>> reporter: but he only took one, ethan , who was freed just in time for his birthday.

>> we are so thankful that this tragic story has a happy ending.

>> reporter: he turns 6 tomorrow. back here at the site of the standoff there is still plenty of activity. investigators plan to be processing evidence for days. brian?

>> gabe guedier ez, midland city, alabama , for us tonight. gabe,