Man who threatened to crash a plane into a Walmart in Mississippi faces criminal charges

A small airplane circles over Tupelo. Credit: AP

A man who stole a plane and flew it over northern Mississippi after threatening to crash it into a Walmart store faces charges of grand larceny and terroristic threats, authorities said on Saturday. Tupelo Police Chief John Quaka said that Cory Wayne Patterson stole a Beechcraft King Air C90A from the Tupelo Regional Airport, took off early on Saturday, called 911 and then threated to crash the aircraft.

Patterson didn’t have a pilot’s license but had some flight instruction and worked at Tupelo Aviation fuelling aircraft, which gave him access to planes. Negotiators spoke to Patterson and convinced him not carry out the threat and to land at the airport.

He did not have the experience to land and another pilot attempted to coach him through it. A negotiator re-established contact, and the plane landed safely.

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

Mr Quaka said Patterson, on his Facebook page, posted what was in essence a goodbye message at about 9:30am.

“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.

Earlier, the Tupelo Police Department said in a Facebook post that plane started circling over Tupelo, Mississippi, at about 5am.

The department said that a Walmart store and a nearby convenience store had been evacuated.

It was still in the air more than five hours later, but had flown away from Tupelo and started circling over another community nearby.