Pilot in custody after alleged threat to crash into Walmart

Southeast

(NewsNation) — A pilot in a plane circling overhead Tupelo, Mississippi, Saturday morning, threatening to crash into a Walmart, landed “intact” in a field, according to local authorities.

Tupelo Police Chief John Quaka said at a press conference that Cory Wayne Patterson stole a Beechcraft King Air C90A from the Tupelo Regional Airport, took off early Saturday, called 911 and then threatened to crash the aircraft. 

Negotiators spoke to Patterson and convinced him not carry out the threat and to land at the airport. Patterson did not have the experience to land and another pilot attempted to coach him through it.

In a statement, the FAA said the airplane landed in a field several miles northwest of Ripley Airport.

Benton County Sheriff Dispatcher Connie Strickland said the suspect was in law enforcement custody, according to The Associated Press.

Patterson faces charges including grand larceny and making a terrorist threat, according to police. He did not have a pilot’s license, but did work at Tupelo Aviation and had some flight training.

“He is the one that places the fuel in these aircraft,” Quaka said.

An online flight-tracking service showed the plane meandering in the sky before landing.

Residents of the area were asked to avoid it during the incident out of an abundance of caution.

In a post on social media, police said that the Walmart and a nearby convenience store had been evacuated. 

Gov. Tate Reeves tweeted Saturday a thank you to law enforcement in addition to the news that the plane was “down” and no one was injured.

“Thank you most of all to local, state, and federal law enforcement who managed this situation with extreme professionalism,” Reeves tweeted.

If you or someone you know needs help, resources or someone to talk to, you can find it at the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline website or by calling 1-800-273-8255. People are available to talk to 24×7.

Multiple federal agencies, including the Department of Homeland Security, were involved in the investigation and are working to discern a motive. Quaka said he expects the federal government, specifically the FBI, will take over the case, and prosecute Patterson.

Quaka said Patterson, on his Facebook page, posted what was in essence a goodbye message at about 9:30 a.m.

“Sorry everyone. Never wanted to actually hurt anyone. I love my parents and sister this isn’t your fault. Goodbye,” the message read.

Tupelo Mayor Todd Jordan said he hopes Patterson “will get the help he needs” and didn’t intend to hurt himself or others in the hours after the initial threat.

The Associated Press contributed to this report.

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