Mississippi: Man charged after ‘stealing plane and threatening to crash into Walmart’

·2-min read
Mississippi: Man charged after ‘stealing plane and threatening to crash into Walmart’

A man has been charged after “stealing a plane and threatening to intentionally to crash into” a Walmart in Mississippi.

Cory Wayne Patterson faces charges of grand larceny and terroristic threats, following the incident on Saturday.

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

An online flight tracking service showed the plane meandering in the sky early Saturday, at approximately 11am UK time (5am US time).

The aircraft was spotted circling low over Jackson, Mississippi, causing panic on the ground, while police evacuated the Walmart and nearby shops.

Patterson, who is believed to be 29, reportedly did not have a pilot’s license but had some flight instruction and had a job fueling aircraft, which gave him access to planes.

The plane landed in a field in Ripley, Mississippi (MEGAN HARRELL GRIMES VIA REUTERS)
The plane landed in a field in Ripley, Mississippi (MEGAN HARRELL GRIMES VIA REUTERS)

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

The plane landed safely and Patterson was taken into police custody.

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

Quaka said Patterson posted a goodbye message on his Facebook page before the incident.

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

Michael Canders, director of the Aviation Center at Farmingdale State College in New York, called the incident “a wake-up call” for general aviation airports and their staff.

The Transportation Security Administration requires annual training emphasizing a “see something, say something” approach to try and prevent a scenario like what police believe occurred in Tupelo — an employee with access to aircraft, he said.

“This very thing is discussed in the course, the potential for somebody gaining access and intent on damage,” he said. “It’s dependent on all of those who work at an airport. If you see someone you don’t recognize or some unusual activity, you’re supposed to report that.”

Governor of Mississippi Tate Reeves announced on Twitter on Saturday afternoon that the “situation has been resolved and that no one was injured.” He thanked law enforcement agencies that helped in bringing down the aircraft.