A student pilot who stole a plane and then threatened to fly it into a Walmart in Mississippi has been arrested on felony charges following the five-hour ordeal.
Cory Peterson, 29, stole the 9-seater plane from Tupelo Airport at around 5am local time. He then began to circle above Mississippi for around five hours.
The student pilot who had had some previous flying experience but had not ever landed a plane before began to make threats over the plane’s radio.
At around 5:08am he contacted Tupelo police to tell them of his intention to purposefully fly the Beechcraft King Air 90 into the Walmart. He remained in contact with authorities for some time before eventually cutting communications for about two hours.
Authorities scrambled to evacuate the Mississippi Walmart and the surrounding area as negotiators failed to convince Peterson to land the plane on the runway.
“Citizens are asked to avoid that area until an all clear is given. With the mobility of an airplane of that type the danger zone is much larger than even Tupelo,” said Tupelo Police Dept. in a statement shortly after 5am.
“TPD has worked with Walmart West and Dodges on West Main to evacuate the stores and disperse people as much as practical.
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“TPD also has been able to begin talking with the pilot directly.
“At this time the situation is ongoing with TPD and all Emergency Services in our area on alert.”
An experienced pilot had been giving him information about how to land safely before Peterson shut down his radio. Although he almost landed on the runway, having come just 100ft from the tarmac, he aborted the attempt and continued to fly around threatening to kamikaze into the store.
The plane could be seen by people on the ground near Walmart and some claim to have seen it flying above the Toyota plant in Blue Springs.
It is not yet clear why Peterson specifically targeted the store. Because he worked at the small airport, cops say it was a “crime of opportunity”. At the time the plane was stolen, the airport’s tower was unmanned.
His work as a linesman involved re-fueling the aircrafts and the plane in question was re-fueled earlier that morning.
In a post to Facebook, an apparently suicidal Peterson left a goodbye message to his friends and family:
“Sorry everyone. Never actually wanted to hurt anyone. I love my parents and sister this isn’t your fault. Goodbye.”
After around five hours of flying in circles, Peterson eventually radioed authorities to say that he had crash landed the plane in a crop field near Gravestown. Although the aircraft reportedly sustained some minor damage, it “remains intact”.
“The plane over North MS is down. Thankful the situation has been resolved and that no one was injured,” said Governor Tate Reeves.
“Thank you most of all to local, state, and federal law enforcement who managed this situation with extreme professionalism.”
Peterson is facing charges of grand larceny and making terrorist threats. He is expected to face felony charges.