video credit: Mary Ellen Rogers via Storyful
Note: The spelling of the pilot’s first name has been corrected.
MEMPHIS, Tenn. — A pilot who circled his plane over north Mississippi for hours threatening to crash into a Walmart on Saturday morning landed in a bean field near Gravestown around 10 a.m. and was taken into custody by Tippah County authorities.
The pilot’s name was confirmed by authorities as Cory Wayne Patterson.
The the Beechcraft King Air 90 had taken off from the Tupelo Regional Airport around 5 a.m. and circled in the air for around five hours. Only the pilot was on board.
The FAA is investigating.
At one point a Walmart in Tupelo, Mississippi was evacuated Saturday morning after the pilot threatened to crash a plane into the business, the Tupelo Police Department said.
Patterson, 29, was uninjured after the rough landing, shortly after posting a goodbye message to his parents and sister on Facebook, authorities said at a news conference. The message said he “never actually wanted to hurt anyone.”
After an anxious morning of watching the plane’s meandering path overhead, Tupelo Mayor Todd Jordan called the resolution “the best case scenario.”
No one was injured.
People all over Mississippi captured video of the plane circling an area from Tupelo to Ripley, to just west of Falkner, MS before it ultimately landed in a field near Ashland around 10:30.
Video credit: Victoria Gray
Patterson was employed fueling planes at the Tupelo Regional Airport, giving him access to the twin-engine Beechcraft King Air C90A, police Chief John Quaka said.
It was not immediately known why, shortly after 5 a.m., the 10-year Tupelo Aviation employee took off in the fully fueled plane. Fifteen minutes later, Patterson called a Lee County 911 dispatcher to say he planned to crash the plane into a Tupelo Walmart, Quaka said. Officers evacuated people from the Walmart and a nearby convenience store.
“This is more likely a crime of opportunity,” said Quaka, adding that the airport’s tower is not staffed until 6 a.m.
Police negotiators were able to make contact during the flight and convince Patterson to land, but he didn’t know how. He was coached by a private pilot into nearly landing at the Tupelo airport but he aborted the attempt at the last minute and resumed the flight, authorities said.
A negotiator re-established contact around 10 a.m., and learned Patterson had landed in a field and was uninjured, Quaka said.
“There’s damage but believe it or not, the aircraft is intact,” the chief told reporters.
Patterson, whose Facebook page said he is from Shannon, was charged with grand larceny and making terroristic threats. Quaka said federal authorities also could bring charges. Police said Patterson is not believed to be a licensed pilot but has some flight instruction.
Jordan said Patterson contacted family members during the flight. The mayor said he hopes Patterson “will get the help he needs.”
“Sorry everyone. Never wanted to actually hurt anyone. I love my parents and sister this isn’t your fault. Goodbye,” read Patterson’s Facebook message posted at about 9:30 a.m.
Mississippi Governor Tate Reeves issued the following statement: “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.”