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Hostage suspect was loner, missed court appearance

The Alabama man who is suspected of taking a young boy hostage had only lived in the area a few years and kept to himself, according to neighbors and officials.

Sources close to the investigation in the Dale County Sheriff's Office identified the suspect to NBC News as Jimmy Lee @!$%#s, age 65.

Police in the small town of Midland City, Ala. scrambled Tuesday afternoon after a gunman shot a local school bus driver and took a boy, age 5 or 6, hostage.

Local NBC station WSFA reported on Wednesday that the suspect was talking to police through a PVC pipe from an underground bunker where the man kept the boy captive overnight.

But before the dramatic events of the past two days, neighbors were worried about Jimmy Lee @!$%#s.

@!$%#s missed a bench hearing on a misdemeanor charge of menacing at 9 a.m. Wednesday, Dale County Court Circuit Clerk Delores Woodham told NBC News.

That charge is related to an allegation by a James E. Davis, Jr., who said that on Dec. 10 @!$%#s threatened him with a pistol and then fired at Davis’ truck as he pulled away, according to a document filed in Dale County District Court on Dec. 26, 2012.

The sources close to the investigation told NBC News that police did not know if the missed court appearance had anything to do with @!$%#s' motive.

Deputies from the county sheriff’s office had arrested @!$%#s on the charge of menacing. He was placed in Dale County Jail on Dec. 22 and bond was set at $500, according to the documents. No employment was listed on the documents. @!$%#s was bonded out that same day by D&D Bonding Co., Woodham said.

Neighbor Danny Dean, 57, said that he saw @!$%#s working in his yard most of the time.

“He's always got a shovel,” said Dean, who had lived in the neighborhood for about twelve years. “He loved to shovel for some damn reason.”

Dean said that @!$%#s only moved into the area about a year and a half ago. A property tax clerk for Dale County confirmed that @!$%#s has paid his taxes on his 1.5 acre property on time for the past two years.

Boy held hostage in bunker after being snatched from school bus

Dean, whose property is about three-tenths of a mile from @!$%#s’ home, said that he did not know the man well, but that no one else seemed to, either.

“He just works in the yard constantly,” Dean said of @!$%#s, who dug his own driveway. “As far as passing, he’s always been a friendly fellow.’

Another neighbor, Claudia Davis, told the Associated Press that she had seen a darker side of @!$%#s.

“Before this happened, I would see him at several places and he would just stare a hole through me,” Davis, 54, told the AP. “On Monday I saw him at a laundry mat and he seen me when I was getting in my truck, and he just stared and stared at me.”

Tim Byrd, a chief investigator with the Dale County Sheriff’s Office, told the Southern Poverty Law Center’s Hatewatch that @!$%#s was a “survivalist” with “anti-American” views.

“His friends and his neighbors stated that he did not trust the government, that he was a Vietnam vet, and that he had PTSD,” Byrd told the SPLC. “He was standoffish, didn’t socialize or have any contact with anybody.”

“He’s the type that thinks the government’s out to get him,” neighbor Michael Creel told local paper the Dothan Eagle. “He’s not right in the head.”

Another man who said he lives near @!$%#s told the AP that the man had once threatened his children after Smith’s dogs went on to @!$%#s’ property. Smith told the AP that his son and daughter were on the school bus during the shooting in Midland City on Tuesday.

“He’s very paranoid,” Smith told the AP. “He goes around in his yard at night with a flashlight and a shotgun.”

Eva Syples, a clerk for the Dale County Probate Office, said she has lived in the area since 1968 and the small town has never seen anything like the situation that developed Tuesday. She said most people just stop at the fresh fruit and vegetable stands and barbecue joints that dot Highway 231 on their way by the town to Montgomery or the beaches of Panama City, Florida.

It’s the kind of small town where people extend an unasked for hand, Syples said: “They have true southern hospitality down here. We go above and beyond to help your neighbor.”

The owner of one of those nearby barbecue stands, Charlie Webb, said his restaurant sits on Highway 231 about 300 yards from the property where law enforcement converged on Tuesday afternoon.

“Most people just pulled up in the parking lot wanting to know what was going on,” Webb, 59, said of the people that pulled into his Webb’s 231 Bar-B-Q last night to watch the police lights. “They’re all just pretty shocked.”

NBC News correspondent Gabe Gutierrez contributed to this report.