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Alabama hostage standoff: Negotiators talking through a pipe (+video)

A PVC tube has become the conduit for food, medication, and ongoing negotiations between law enforcement and the Alabama man who shot a bus driver and took a child hostage on Tuesday.

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No motive has been discussed by investigators, but the police chief said the FBI had evidence suggesting it could be considered a hate crime. Federal authorities have not released any details about the standoff or the investigation. The mayor said he hasn't seen anything tying together Dykes' anti-government views and the allegations against him.

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Dykes had been scheduled to appear in court Wednesday to answer charges he shot at his neighbors in a dispute last month over a speed bump. Neighbor Claudia Davis said he yelled and fired shots at her, her son and her baby grandson over damage Dykes claimed their pickup truck did to a makeshift speed bump in the dirt road. No one was hurt.

The son, James Davis Jr., believes Tuesday's shooting was connected to the court date. "I believe he thought I was going to be in court and he was going to get more charges than the menacing, which he deserved, and he had a bunch of stuff to hide and that's why he did it."

Neighbors described a number of other run-ins with Dykes in the time since he moved to this small town near the Georgia and Florida borders, in a region known for peanut farming.

A neighbor directly across the street, Brock Parrish, said Dykes usually wore overalls and glasses and his posture was hunched-over. He said Dykes usually drove a run-down "creeper" van with some of the windows covered in aluminum foil.

Parrish saw him often digging in his yard, as if he was preparing a spot to lay down a driveway or a building foundation. He lived in a small camping trailer on the site. He patrolled his lawn at night, walking from corner to corner with a flashlight and an assault rifle.

Mike and Patricia Smith, who also live across the street from Dykes and whose two children were on the bus, said their youngsters had a run-in with him about 10 months ago.

"My bulldogs got loose and went over there," Patricia Smith said. "The children went to get them. He threatened to shoot them if they came back."

Another neighbor, Ronda Wilbur, said Dykes beat her 120-pound dog with a lead pipe for coming onto his side of the dirt road. The dog died a week later.

"He said his only regret was he didn't beat him to death all the way," Wilbur said. "If a man can kill a dog, and beat it with a lead pipe and brag about it, it's nothing until it's going to be people."

Court records showed Dykes was arrested in Florida in 1995 for improper exhibition of a weapon, but the misdemeanor was dismissed. The circumstances of the arrest were not detailed in his criminal record. He was also arrested for marijuana possession in 2000.

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Associated Press writers Jay Reeves, Melissa Nelson-Gabriel, Bob Johnson in Montgomery and AP researcher Rhonda Shafner in New York contributed to this report.

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