A pilot who threatened to “intentionally crash” into a Walmart in Tupelo, Mississippi, Saturday morning was taken into custody hours later after landing the plane in a field.
The pilot, identified by police as Cory Wayne Patterson, stole the twin-engine Beechcraft King Air 90 from the Tupelo Regional Airport around 5:30 a.m.
Patterson, 29, called 911 from the aircraft to say that he was going to crash into Walmart, Tupelo police Chief John Quaka said at a news conference Saturday afternoon.
The police department had warned residents to evacuate the Walmart and the nearby area. A Walmart spokesperson said the store was closed and had been fully evacuated.
The pilot circled around for hours before police negotiators made contact with Patterson and convinced him to return to the airport in Tupelo. Quaka said Patterson has “some flight instruction” but is not believed to be a licensed pilot.
“The pilot did not have experience to land the aircraft,” the police chief said. “A private pilot assisted us in helping this pilot complete this, however, it was not completed. Upon final approach, the pilot aborted the landing and traveled in a northwest direction away from Tupelo toward Union, Tippah and Benton county.”
At around 9:30 a.m. Patterson posted a message on Facebook “and in essence, it said goodbye,” according to Quaka. Police believe that Patterson may have been running low on fuel, he said.
Negotiators again made contact with Patterson, who informed them that he had landed the aircraft in a field in Tippah County, just outside Benton.
“I believe that after the initial threat, he did not want to hurt himself or anyone else. And I believe that we had what you would think would be the best case scenario,” Tupelo Mayor Todd Jordan said at the news conference.
Mississippi Gov. Tate Reeves said earlier Saturday he was glad the situation was resolved with no injuries.
“Thank you most of all to local, state, and federal law enforcement who managed this situation with extreme professionalism,” he wrote in a tweet.
Patterson worked as a lineman at the airport and had access to the aircraft, police said. Quaka said the stolen plane had been fully fueled Friday night and that Patterson took off before control tower employees arrived at 6 a.m.
He has been charged by Tupelo police with grand larceny and making terroristic threats. Quaka said federal charges could also be filed against Patterson.