US man charged after threat to fly plane into Walmart

·2 min read

A US man who stole a small aeroplane and threatened to fly it into a Walmart shop has been charged with grand larceny and making terroristic threats.

The man - named by police as Cory Wayne Patterson - was arrested after landing in a field, having circled near Tupelo, Mississippi, for hours.

The Walmart was evacuated while police spoke to him in mid-air.

The suspect worked at the local airport but was not believed to hold a pilot's licence, the city's police said.

However, he is known to have received some flight instruction.

Mr Patterson is alleged to have stolen the Beechcraft King Air twin-engine aircraft shortly after 05:00 local time (10:00 GMT) before taking to the skies.

The small utility craft is capable of seating 10-11 people.

Shortly after taking control of the plane, the suspect phoned 911, saying he was planning to fly into a branch of Walmart.

The threat prompted an evacuation of the building and other nearby shops as officers warned of a "dangerous situation".

John Quaka, the local chief of police, said negotiators managed to persuade Mr Patterson to safely land at the airport - a manoeuvre of which he had no experience - but that he then aborted this plan.

No details of the negotiators' conversation with the suspect, or his possible motives, have yet been made public.

Just after 09:30, he posted an update on Facebook which "in essence [...] said goodbye", Chief Quaka added in his news conference.

Flight-trackers monitored the plane as it charted an erratic course above the city and in the wider area.

Soon afterwards, a live stream by a reporter of local television station WTVA showed the aircraft sitting stationary in a field.

There was confusion in the moments before the aircraft's landing, after radar contact was lost amid concerns that the vehicle was running out of fuel.

Mr Patterson was taken into custody soon after landing.

In addition to the charges of grand larceny and making terroristic threats, he also faces a federal-level investigation.

State Governor Tate Reeves earlier tweeted his thanks to law enforcement officers for managing the situation with "extreme professionalism".