A plane hijacker who had threatened to crash his aircraft into a supermarket below has been arrested by local sheriffs amid claims the pilot had written a farewell message on his Facebook page.
Police and other emergency services assisted in the evacuation of Walmart as well as a car dealership in Tupelo, northeast Mississippi, amid fears the plane could slam into the ground.
A spokesman for Tupelo Police Department (TPD) had earlier warned the mystery hijacker had indicated the small aircraft could be crashed intentionally into the usually-busy supermarket, as a flight path showed the plane flying in circles.
After several hours of flying, the plane finally landed in a nearby field and its pilot arrested, according to a Government source.
The suspect, who has been identified locally as Cory Patterson but has not been confirmed, is said to have written on his Facebook page: “Sorry everyone. Never actually wanted to hurt anyone.
“I love my parents and sister this isn’t your fault. Goodbye.”
Earlier a spokesman for Tupelo Police Department had said: “At approximately 5am TPD was notified a pilot of an airplane (possibly King Air type) was flying over Tupelo.
“The pilot has made contact with E911 and is threatening to intentionally crash into WalMart on West Main.
“Citizens are asked to avoid the area until an all clear is given. With the mobility of an aeroplane of that type the danger zone is much larger than even Tupelo.
“TPD has worked with WalMart West and Dodges on West Main to evacuate the stores and disperse people as much as practical. 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.
“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.”
They said the pilot called 911 and threatened to intentionally crash into Wal-Mart on West Main.
A video posted on Twitter shows the plane flying erratically in circles over homes and businesses.
The Twitter user who posted a video of the plane alleged: “Currently we have a 29yr old who stole this plane & is threatening to crash it into something.”
Flight Aware have said the aircraft is a Beechcraft King Aire 90 owned by Southeast Aviation LLC.
This King Air plane has a speed of 206 mph and an altitude of 1,100 feet, they said.
The user added police, ambulances, and fire trucks were everywhere in the area.
Another Twitter user said: “Woke up to find out a plane has been flying over my dad’s neighbourhood in Tupelo and threatening to crash into their Walmart. Been going on since 5 am.”
Mississippi Governor Tate Reeves said state law enforcement and emergency managers are “closely tracking this dangerous situation.”
Leslie Criss, a magazine editor in Tupelo, added: “I’ve never seen anything like this in this town.
“It’s a scary way to wake up on a Saturday morning.”