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Stolen airplane grounded in Mississippi after pilot threatened to crash

Authorities say a plane that was circling over northern Mississippi and whose pilot had threatened to crash it into the ground landed safely on Saturday.

Gov. Tate Reeves announced on Twitter that the “situation has been resolved and that no one was injured.” He thanked law enforcement agencies that helped in bringing the aircraft down. The plane started circling over Tupelo, Mississippi, about 5 am and was in the air for more than five hours.

Benton County Sheriff Dispatcher Connie Strickland said the plane landed and the subject was in law enforcement custody.

Earlier, the Tupelo Police Department said in a Facebook post that plane started circling over Tupelo, Mississippi, about 5 am It was still in the air more than five hours later, but had flown away from Tupelo and was circling over another community nearby.

Authorities believe the aircraft — a Beechcraft King Air C90A — was stolen and 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. 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.

Law enforcement told the Northeast Mississippi Daily Journal shortly after 8 am 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 The Associated Press. “It’s a scary way to wake up on a Saturday morning.”

Former state Rep. 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.'”

Associated Press writer Michael Balsamo in New York contributed to this report.

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