Pilot arrested for threatening to crash plane in Mississippi mall

A pilot who threatened to crash his plane into a Wal-Mart mall in the US state of Mississippi was arrested Saturday after landing in a farm field, authorities said.

Connie Strickland, attached to the Benton County Sheriff’s Office, told AFP that the twin-engine Beechcraft plane, which flew for hours over Tupelo and the surrounding area, landed around 11:25 am ET (1525 GMT).

CNN reported that the pilot, identified by Tupelo Police Chief John Kwaka as Corey Wayne Patterson of neighboring Shannon, will be charged with grand theft and terroristic threats.

Kwaka said additional federal charges were likely to be filed, noting that the motive for his action was unclear.

Kwaka added that Patterson worked for “Tupelo Aviation” for 10 years, and his job included refueling planes, and he has flying skills, but does not appear to have a pilot’s license.

An earlier police statement said the pilot called 911 in Tupelo around 5 a.m. “threatening to deliberately crash into a Walmart in West Maine.”

The large shopping center and a nearby gas station were evacuated and people were warned to stay away.

Kwaka said Tupelo police negotiators radioed Patterson and were able to talk him out of crashing his plane into the store and landing at the airport.

Because he lacked landing experience, a private pilot was recruited to accompany Patterson during the operation.

The police chief said Patterson posted a “goodbye” message on his Facebook page at the time, apparently running out of fuel, but was able to land in a field.

It was unclear if Patterson was injured. Kwaka told reporters that she had been in contact with the Patterson family, who were “extremely concerned” for his safety.

The Federal Aviation Administration said it was investigating the crash.