Pilot in custody after threatening to crash into Walmart

JACKSON, MISS. — Authorities say a man who stole a plane and flew it over Mississippi after threatening to crash it into a Walmart is facing theft and terroristic threats charges.

Tupelo Police Chief John Quaca said at a press conference that Corey Wayne Patterson did not have a pilot’s license, but he did have some flight instruction and was an employee of Tupelo Aviation. Authorities said Patterson stole the plane, took off and then called 911 about the threat.

Kuaka said Patterson could also face federal charges. No one was injured in the incident.

THIS IS UPDATED NEWS. Earlier AP story follows below.

JACKSON, MISS. (AP) — A plane circled over north Mississippi Saturday morning, causing panic on the ground as the pilot threatened to crash into a Walmart. Hours later, the plane landed safely in a field and police took the pilot into custody.

Governor Tate Reeves announced on Twitter just after 10:30 a.m. that “the situation has been resolved and that no one was injured.” He thanked the law enforcement agencies that helped bring down the plane.

The Federal Aviation Administration confirmed that the plane landed northwest of Ripley, Mississippi, with only one pilot on board. Benton County Sheriff’s dispatcher Connie Strickland also said the plane landed and the subject was taken into custody.

Ripley is about 85 miles (137 kilometers) southeast of Memphis, Tennessee, and about 45 miles (72 kilometers) northwest of Tupelo, Mississippi, where the flight originated.

The plane began circling over Tupelo around 5 a.m., the Tupelo Police Department said. Officers evacuated a Walmart and convenience store in Tupelo because the pilot threatened to crash into the Walmart.

The plane flew over Tupelo for more than three hours before flying to more rural areas. People went outside and looked up at the sky, some of them taking photos or videos with cellphones.

Authorities believe the plane — a Beechcraft King Air C90A — was stolen and are working to determine whether the pilot who threatened to crash the plane was an employee of a local airport, two people with knowledge of the matter told The Associated Press. Multiple federal agencies, including the Department of Homeland Security, are involved in the investigation and are working to determine a motive.

An online flight tracking service showed the plane meandering through the sky for several hours and following a looping path.

Leslie Criss, a magazine editor who lives in Tupelo, woke up early and monitored the situation on television and social media. A few of her friends were outside watching the plane circle overhead.

“I’ve never seen anything like this in this town,” Chris told The Associated Press. “It’s a scary way to wake up on a Saturday morning.”

Former state Rep. Steve Holland, who is a funeral director in Tupelo, said he has received calls from families concerned about the plane.

“One called and said, ‘Oh my God, do we have to cancel mom’s funeral?'” Holland said. “I just told them, ‘No, life will go on.’

The plane drama unfolded as tens of thousands of college football fans headed to north Mississippi for Saturday’s football games at the University of Mississippi at Oxford and Mississippi State University at Starkville. Tupelo is between these two towns.

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