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Fri, Nov 18, 2022

Suspect Who Threatened to Crash Stolen King Air into Walmart Dies in Prison

A Surfeit of Questions; A Dearth of Answers

On 03 September 2022, Cory Wayne Patterson—a 29-year-old, long-time employee of Tupelo Aviation, an FBO and flight-school on Mississippi’s Tupelo Regional Airport (TUP)—stole a 1987 King Air C-90A. Once aloft, Patterson contacted emergency services and threatened to crash the airplane into a nearby Walmart store.

On 14 November 2022, Mr. Patterson died in a Miami federal prison where he was awaiting psychological evaluation and possibly trial. Patterson faced Federal charges of Destruction of an Aircraft, Making Threats Involving the Destruction of an Aircraft, Making Terroristic Threats, and Grand Larceny. Conviction on the first charge alone carries a prison sentence of up to twenty-years. Patterson arrived at the prison on 10 November.

The psychological evaluation Patterson was to have undergone was ordered by a federal magistrate at the behest of the decedent’s attorney.

The U.S. Bureau of Prisons issued a statement in which it purported Patterson had been found unresponsive in his cell. “Responding staff immediately initiated life-saving measures,” the statement put forth. “Staff requested emergency medical services ... and life-saving efforts continued. Mr. Patterson was subsequently pronounced deceased.” The statement went on to say that no staff or other inmates had been injured.

The Bureau of Prisons did not comment on the cause of Patterson’s death.

Federal court records include a handwritten note—ostensibly discovered aboard the stolen King Air by an FBI agent—in which Patterson stated he was sick of living. “I picked Walmart because it would be quick and easy to evacuate,” the note continued. “I am not interested in hurting anyone.” Patterson posited that Walmart is owned by billionaires who pay workers low wages, and that insurance payouts would cover any losses incurred by the company.

Following Patterson’s unlawful September flight, Tupelo police chief John Quaka disclosed that Patterson—while flying erratically over the city at low altitude for the better part of five hours—had been in contact with police negotiators who prevailed upon him to forgo his plan to raze the local Walmart and land the King Air at Tupelo Regional.

Beset by law enforcement, the enormity of his actions, and imminent fuel-exhaustion, Patterson posted the following farewell message on Facebook: “Sorry everyone. Never actually wanted to hurt anyone. I love my parents and sister. This isn’t your fault. Goodbye.”

Patterson eventually landed the pilfered King Air in a soybean field some 39-nautical-miles northwest of Tupelo and was taken into custody. Patterson’s public defender argued—albeit futilely—that bond should have been allowed insomuch as his client had no prior criminal history and chose, ultimately, to not crash the aircraft.  



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