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The pilot who threatened to crash into a Mississippi Walmart has landed safely

A small airplane circles over Tupelo, Miss., on Saturday. Police say the pilot threatened to crash the aircraft into a Walmart.
Rachel McWilliams
A small airplane circles over Tupelo, Miss., on Saturday. Police say the pilot threatened to crash the aircraft into a Walmart.

Updated September 3, 2022 at 4:17 PM ET

The pilot who threatened to crash a small plane into a Walmart in Tupelo, Miss., has landed safely and was taken into custody, local authorities said Saturday.

"Thankful the situation has been resolved and that no one was injured," Mississippi Gov. Tate Reeves wrote on Twitter.

The plane landed in a field northwest of an airport in Ripley, Miss. The pilot, Cory Wayne Patterson, 29, has been arrested and is being charged with grand larceny and making terrorist threats, Tupelo Police Chief John Quaka said in a news conference. Quaka added that he anticipates the federal government will also press charges.

Around 5 a.m. local time, Patterson stole a fully fueled Beechcraft King Air 90 from the Tupelo Regional Airport, according to the police chief.

Patterson worked for Tupelo Aviation inside the airport for 10 years, where he was responsible for fueling aircraft. He had some flight instruction but no license, according to Quaka.

Quickly after departing the airport, he alerted emergency responders of his intention to crash into a local Walmart, Quaka said. No one else was aboard the plane.

Residents were quickly asked to evacuate and avoid the area surrounding the local Walmart and Dodges' convenience store until the situation was resolved.

A negotiator working with the police spoke with Patterson directly as he hovered over the city for four hours. Patterson was also in contact with his family while flying the plane, the chief said. At 9:32 a.m. local time, Patterson wrote on Facebook "a message in essence that said goodbye," Quaka said.

At one point, Patterson agreed to safely land the plane in Tupelo but then changed his mind and flew northwest. At 10:12 a.m. local time, Patterson confirmed that he had landed the plane. The aircraft was damaged from the landing but still intact, Quaka said.

He added that the police department has been in contact with Patterson's family who were "very concerned about the well-being of their family member."

Tupelo Mayor Todd Jordan called the incident "the best-case scenario" given that no one was injured.

Local authorities said Patterson's motive has not yet been determined and the FBI is assisting with the investigation.

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Juliana Kim
Juliana Kim is a weekend reporter for Digital News, where she adds context to the news of the day and brings her enterprise skills to NPR's signature journalism.