Who is Cory Patterson? Police Offer Details, Timeline on Airport Worker in Custody After Stealing Plane
Authorities in Tupelo, MS offered new details on the incident involving an airport worker who stole an airplane, flying erratically for hours after threatening to crash into a local Walmart store.
According to Tupelo Mayor Todd Jordan, Cory Wayne Patterson (29) of Shannon, MS was arrested after landing in a soybean field in Benton County. During a press conference, the mayor described it as a "best case scenario" ending to an "unusual" event being that no one was injured during the incident that went on for over five hours.
The mayor confirmed that Patterson was in custody and that he didn't want to hurt anyone after his initial threat to crash into a local Walmart store before thanking local, state, and federal agencies who assisted during the incident.
Tupelo Fire Chief Kelly Elliott said that the events that unfolded after Patterson stole the aircraft were a lot different than events like a crash site where his team members would respond to a situation where their training would determine what steps or actions were needed. Elliott says that team members worked with multiple agencies across counties in a "resource standby mode" depending on what events would or could unfold.
Tupelo Police Chief John Quaka provided a bullet-pointed timeline that gave a lot more context to a story that thousands of people followed throughout most of the morning up to that point.
Quaka said at 5:08 a.m. Cory Wayne Patterson left the Tupelo Airport in the stolen aircraft. Patterson has "some flight instruction" but wasn't believed to be a licensed pilot.
He is a ten-year employee at Tupelo Aviation, a fixed-based operator located at the Tupelo Airport. Patterson worked as a lineman, whose job duties includes fueling up aircraft. This means he has full access to the planes and the runway at Tupelo Airport.
According to Chief Quaka, the stolen plane was fully fueled the night before, and 15 minutes after taking off, Patterson contacted e911 to inform them that he planned on crashing the aircraft into the West Main Street Walmart location.
Police shut down major streets and evacuated buildings to save lives while negotiators contacted Patterson, and eventually got him to agree not to carry out the deed and head back to the Tupelo Airport. The only problem was that he couldn't land the plane due to his limited flying experience.
Negotiators were able to get a private pilot on the line to assist Patterson in landing the plane, but in a twist of events, he aborted the mission upon final approach and made a turn at the last minute.
Patterson then began flying erraticly, posting a now-deleted "goodbye" message to his Facebook page at 9:32 a.m.
At 10:08 a.m., authorities lost contact with the aircraft, and less than five minutes later at 10:12 a.m., a negotiator was able to reconnect with Patterson who had landed in a soybean field (luckily, near a fire department) in Benton County.
Surprisingly, there were no known injuries to anyone (including Patterson) and most of the plane was intact.
During the Q&A portion of the press conference, Quaka informed reporters that Patterson was taken into custody without incident and has been charged with Grand Larceny and making terrorizing threats.
He reiterated that while Patterson does have undetermined flight experience, he does have instruction.
Also, in addition to his Facebook post, Patterson did contact his family at some point, who were eventually based at the Tupelo Police headquarters or wherever officers had set up camp.
As of right now, Quaka said Patterson's motive is undetermined, but authorities plan to "pursue all angles and avenues" to determine why he did what he did.
Quaka also confirmed that there was no major security breach at the airport as Patterson simply took advantage of his job that grants him access at Tupelo Aviation where the control tower is only manned from 6 a.m. to 10 p.m.
As far as how close he got to land the plane safely back at Tupelo Airport, Quaka said negotiators had Patterson lined up and roughly 100 feet off the runway before he pulled up and turned away from the airport.
He was close to running out of fuel before landing in the soybean field.
The police chief described it as a "crime of opportunity" adding that federal charges against Patterson are likely in the coming days.