A man, who circled a stolen plane over the US city of Tupelo for hours and threatened to crash into a Walmart store, has been charged with grand larceny and making terroristic threats, police said on Saturday.
The Tupelo Police Department said it was notified around 5 am on Saturday that a pilot flying a “King Air type” airplane – a small utility plane – was considering crashing into a Walmart located on West Main street.
The Benton County Sheriff’s Office later confirmed the plane had landed in a field in Ashland, roughly 60 miles northeast of Tupelo in the US state of Mississippi.
The man landed the plane safely after talks with the police.
Mississippi Governor Reeves announced on Twitter that the “situation has been resolved and that no one was injured.” “The plane over North MS is down. Thankful the situation has been resolved and that no one was injured. Thank you most of all to local, state, and federal law enforcement who managed this situation with extreme professionalism,” Reeves said in a tweet.
The pilot, identified as Cory Patterson was taken into police custody, authorities said.
Patterson did not have a pilot’s license, Tupelo police Chief John Quaka said during a news conference, adding the stolen plane was a Beechcraft King Air 90.
Patterson has been charged with grand larceny and making terroristic threats, WAPT, a television station in Jackson quoted Quaka as saying.
Additional charges are possible under a federal investigation.
“The pilot did not have the experience to land the aircraft,” the police chief said. According to Quaka, Patterson was a lineman of Tupelo aviation for 10 years fuelling tanks of planes and had some flight experience. Officers brought in a pilot to communicate with Patterson on how to land the aircraft at the Tupelo airport.
At around 9:30 am Patterson posted a message on Facebook “and in essence, it said goodbye,” according to Quaka.
“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.
The nine-seater airplane started circling over Tupelo when the pilot made contact with 911, issuing the threat, according to CNN.
It was airborne for more than five hours, which police described as a “dangerous situation.” The Walmart and another nearby store were earlier evacuated, while citizens were asked to avoid the area. An online flight tracking service showed the plane meandering in the sky for several hours and following a looping path.
Details of the conversation between the pilot and police, while he was in the air, were not immediately made public.