TUPELO, Miss — A stolen plane was circling over northern Mississippi on Saturday morning, and police said they evacuated a Walmart store after the pilot threatened to fall inside.
The Tupelo Police Department said in a Facebook post that the Walmart and a nearby supermarket had been evacuated. The plane began circling over Tupelo, Mississippi, around 5 a.m. It was still aloft about four hours later, but had flown away from Tupelo and was circling over another community nearby.
Police said they contacted the pilot directly.
“Citizens are asked to avoid this area until the all clear is given,” police wrote. “With the mobility of an aircraft of this type, the danger zone is much larger than even with Tupelo.”
Authorities believe the plane was stolen and are working to determine if the pilot threatening to crash the plane is an employee at a local airport, two people briefed on the matter told The Associated Press . Several federal agencies, including the Department of Homeland Security, are now involved in the investigation and are working to identify a motive, the people said.
Investigators continued to monitor the flight path and were in touch with the pilot, the people said.
Law enforcement told the Northeast Mississippi Daily Journal just after 8 a.m. that the plane departed the airspace around Tupelo and was flying near a Toyota manufacturing facility in nearby Blue Springs.
An online flight tracking service showed the plane weaving and looping in the sky.
“State law enforcement agencies and emergency response managers are closely monitoring this dangerous situation,” Gov. Tate Reeves wrote on Twitter. “All citizens should be vigilant and aware of news from the Tupelo Police Department.”
Leslie Criss, a magazine editor who lives in Tupelo, woke up early and observed the situation on TV and social media. Some of her friends stood outside and watched as the plane circled overhead.
“I’ve never seen anything like this in this city,” Criss told the Associated Press. “It’s a scary way to wake up on a Saturday morning.”
Former State Assemblyman Steve Holland, a funeral director in Tupelo, said he’s had calls from families concerned about the plane.
“One called and said, ‘Oh my god, do we have to cancel the mother’s funeral?'” Holland said. “I just said to them, ‘No, life goes on.'”
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https://6abc.com/stolen-plane-aircraft-crash-threat-circling-mississippi-city/12193554/ Pilot of a small airplane circling over a Mississippi city has threatened to crash the aircraft into a Walmart store