Quaka said that at 5:08 a.m. local time, Patterson, of Shannon, Mississippi, stole a Beechcraft King Air C90 twin engine aircraft and took off from Tupelo Regional Airport.
“We do know Patterson has some flight instruction,” Quaka said. “We do not believe he is a licensed pilot. That is still ongoing, to discover that.”
As a lineman, Quaka said, Patterson is responsible for fueling aircraft. The chief said the plane was fully fueled the night before.
The Tupelo Walmart store was “closed and evacuated,” Charles Crowson, director of the Walmart Press Office, told CNN earlier, while the plane was airborne.
Quaka said negotiators from Tupelo Police contacted the pilot and convinced him to land the plane at Tupelo airport. A private pilot assisted police in helping Patterson, but upon final approach the pilot aborted the landing and traveled northwest, Quaka said. Several counties were notified of what was going on, Quaka said.
More than four hours later, Patterson made a Facebook post. “In essence, it said goodbye. At this point, we knew he was getting close to running out of fuel,” Quaka said.
After police lost and then re-established radar contact with the plane, Patterson confirmed he had landed in a field, according to the chief.
Soon thereafter, Patterson was taken into custody and charged with grand larceny and making terroristic threats, the chief said.
Quaka said he anticipated the federal government will proceed with federal charges.
The FAA says it is investigating the incident. The FBI field office in Jackson, Mississippi, also was involved in the incident response, a spokesperson said.
Roxanne Ward, 42, told CNN the plane landed behind the Gravestown Fire Department near her home about 10:20 a.m.
“He landed pretty hard,” she said.
Video she shared with CNN shows the small plane largely intact in a field with law enforcement surrounding the pilot.
Ward heard the plane coming and ran over to her father-in-law’s house to hide in the basement, she said. “That’s when we heard the thud.”
In response to a reporter’s question, Quaka said he has been in contact with the pilot’s family, who is “very concerned” about Patterson’s well-being.
CNN’s Hannah Sarisohn, Josh Campbell, Rebekah Riess and Kelly Murray contributed to this story.