A pilot of a small plane who threatened to crash into a Walmart store in Mississippi has landed without any injuries and was taken into custody, Governor Tate Reeves has said.
“Thankful the situation has been resolved and that no one was injured,” Reeves said on Twitter on Saturday.
The identity of the pilot of the plane, which had circled erratically over the city of Tupelo in the southern US state and a nearby area for about five hours, was not released nor was any information on a possible motive for his actions.
Earlier, the pilot called a 911 emergency operator in Tupelo, “threatening to intentionally crash into Walmart on West Main”, according to a statement from the city’s police department.
The sprawling department store and a neighbouring gas station were evacuated, and people were warned to stay away.
Tupelo police cautioned that “with the mobility of an airplane of that type, the danger zone is much larger”.
Authorities believe the aircraft — a Beechcraft King Air C90A with seating for seven to 11 passengers — was stolen, and they are working to determine whether the pilot who threatened to crash the plane is an employee of a local airport, two people briefed on the matter told The Associated Press news agency.
Multiple federal agencies, including the Department of Homeland Security, were involved in the investigation and are working to discern a motive.
A spokesperson for the Federal Aviation Administration said the agency is aware of the flight and was coordinating with local law enforcement.
The Daily Journal, citing multiple sources, said the plane was down in Ashland, a sparsely populated part of Mississippi, and the pilot was still alive.
An image on social media from the Starkville Daily News showed a small plane in a field.
Law enforcement told the Northeast Mississippi Daily Journal shortly after 8am (13:00 GMT) that the plane had left the airspace around Tupelo and was flying near a Toyota manufacturing plant in nearby Blue Springs.
An online flight tracking service showed the plane meandering in the sky for several hours and following a looping path.
Leslie Criss, a magazine editor who lives in Tupelo, woke up early and was watching the situation on TV and social media. Several of her friends were outside watching the plane circle overhead.
“I’ve never seen anything like this in this town,” Criss told AP. “It’s a scary way to wake up on a Saturday morning.”
Former state Representative Steve Holland, who is a funeral director in Tupelo, said he had received calls from families concerned about the plane.
“One called and said, ‘Oh, my God, do we need to cancel mother’s funeral?'” Holland said. “I just told them, ‘No, life’s going to go on.'”