A Walmart in Tupelo, Mississippi, was evacuated on Saturday morning after a pilot flying above the store issued a threat to “intentionally crash” into it, police confirmed.
In a news release shared to their official Facebook page, Tupelo Police Department said they were notified at “approximately 05:00 am” of the pilot flying over Tupelo and the Walmart. They shared that the pilot did threaten “to intentionally crash into Walmart on West Main and confirmed that they worked with the store to “evacuate” and “disperse people as much as practical.”
The police department also said they’ve been “talking with the pilot directly” and that the situation is “ongoing.” They advise residents to avoid the area until an all clear has been issued.
A follow-up to the release added that at “approximately 08:35 am,” the plane was still airborne “north of Tupelo in the Benton, Union County Area” and that authorities were “continuing to monitor this dangerous situation.”
A government source familiar with the situation later in the morning on Saturday told CNN that the aircraft was flying over the Holly Springs National Forest and that Tupelo Police were no longer in contact with the pilot.
Locals in the area shared video footage of the plane on Twitter, with one person noting that the plane had been “been flying in circles for 45 minutes around Tupelo.”
— Nick Nichols (@Nickfivecents) September 3, 2022
BREAKING: An airplane in Tupelo is threatening to crash in to Tupelo Walmart this morning. Avoid area. Here is video of the actual airplane, a fairly large one. pic.twitter.com/2ppgg1sE1S
— Mississippi Sports (@SocialSportsMs) September 3, 2022
An online flight tracking service also shows that plane has been on a looping path.
The pilot is believed to be an airport employee, as per a report in the Tupelo Daily Journal .
“State law enforcement and emergency managers are closely tracking this dangerous situation,” Gov. Tate Reeves said in a statement. “All citizens should be on alert and aware of updates from the Tupelo Police Department.”
Former state Rep. Steve Holland, who is now a funeral director in Tupelo, told the Associated Press that he received calls from families concerned about the plane.
“One called and said, ‘Oh, my God, do we need to cancel mother’s funeral?’” Holland said. “I just told them, ‘No, life’s going to go on.’”
The pilot was confirmed to have landed safely later on Saturday morning, with Gov Reeves issuing a follow-up statement around 11:37 on Twitter saying “the plane over North MS is down” and “that no one was injured.” The pilot, who is now in police custody, has been identified as Cory Patterson.