Plane down, pilot in custody after threatening to crash into Mississippi Walmart store: Police

TUPELO, Miss. — (TUPELO, Miss.) -- A small plane is down and its pilot is in police custody after threatening to intentionally crash into a Walmart in Tupelo, Mississippi, the Benton County Sheriff’s office confirmed to ABC News Saturday.

The Federal Aviation Administration confirmed to ABC News that the plane landed in a field in Ripley, Mississippi. The agency said the pilot was the only person on board.

The Tupelo Police Department identified the pilot as Cory Wayne Patterson, an employee at Tupelo Aviation. Patterson allegedly stole a Beechcraft King Air C-90 twin engine aircraft from the Tupelo Regional Airport just after 5 a.m. Patterson had access to the plane as an employee of Tupelo Aviation, which operates out of the airport.

Once the plane landed, Patterson was taken into custody. Patterson is being charged with grand larceny and making terroristic threats, and federal charges are likely as well, Tupelo Police Department Chief John Quaka said at a press conference Saturday.

Police were notified that an airplane was flying over Tupelo at around 5 a.m. local time. The plane's pilot made contact with E911 and was threatening to crash intentionally, according to a statement from police.

Negotiators were “able to convince him to not carry out this deed and to land the aircraft at Tupelo Airport,” Quaka said.

Patterson eventually aborted that landing and flew north, away from Tupelo. At 9:30 a.m., when the plane was close to running out of fuel, Patterson posted a message on Facebook that was “in essence, a goodbye,” according to the chief.

Police worked with Walmart and a nearby Dodge's market to evacuate those stores and disperse people as much as possible.

"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," police said in a statement.

Flightradar24 showed the pilot had been flying in random circles far to the northwest of Tupelo, while flying very low and changing altitudes between 500 and 1500 mean sea level.

Mississippi state law enforcement were "closely monitoring" the situation, Gov. Tate Reeves confirmed on Twitter. The FAA said it is coordinating with local law enforcement and will investigate.

The pilot's condition is currently unknown.

This is a developing story. Please check back for updates.

ABC News' Sam Sweeney contributed to this report.

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