An Alabama legislator, Representative Steve Clouse, told reporters the hostage suffered from Asperger's Syndrome and ADHD but had apparently been able to receive his medication while held captive. The Dale County Sheriff's Department said the child was not believed to have been harmed.
Schools in the area of the Alabama shooting were closed on Wednesday and will remain shuttered for the rest of the week.
Dale County Superintendent Donny Bynum lauded Poland as "a hero ... who gave his life to protect 21 students who are now home safely with their families."
The superintendent's assistant said the young boy still being held by the gunman appeared to have been chosen at random.
"Emotions are high, and it's a struggle for us all to make sense of something so senseless, but let us keep this young student, his family and Mr. Poland's family in our thoughts and prayers," Bynum said in a statement.
The Southern Poverty Law Center reported on its Hatewatch blog that a chief investigator with the Dale County Sheriff's Office identified the gunman as 65-year-old Jimmy Lee Dykes, although Reuters could not independently verify the gunman's identity.
Investigator Tim Byrd said Dykes' friends and neighbors described him as a "survivalist" who did not trust the government, according to the law center blog.
"He was standoffish, didn't socialize or have any contact with anybody," Byrd told Hatewatch.