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Stolen Canadian plane landed in Missouri

Tuesday, April 7, 2009 | 9:55 a.m. CDT

WAUSAU, Wisconsin — A man suspected of stealing a plane in Canada and flying erratically across three states was trying to commit suicide, hoping he would be shot down by military fighter planes, a state trooper said Tuesday.

Adam Dylan Leon, 31, was arrested at a convenience store in Ellsinore, Mo., shortly after landing the single-engine, four-seat Cessna on a rural Missouri road Monday night, ending a six-hour flight, police said.

FBI spokesman Richard Kolko told CNN that Leon was a native of Turkey who changed his name from Yavuz Berke and became a Canadian citizen last year.

The plane was tracked as a "flight safety issue" and was not believed to be a terrorist threat, Mike Kucharek, spokesman for the North American Aerospace Defense Command, said in a telephone interview from Colorado Springs, Colo.

The Missouri state trooper who arrested Leon said on ABC's "Good Morning America" that the pilot told him he had hoped to be shot down.

"He made a statement that he was trying to commit suicide and he didn't have the courage to do it himself. And his idea was to fly the aircraft into the United States, where he would be shot down," Trooper Justin Watson said on ABC.

Watson said Leon apparently hitched a ride to the convenience store after landing on a highway and taxiing the plane to a side road. He didn't appear surprised when the officer entered the convenience store to arrest him.

Leon said "he didn't have any ID, but he was the person we were looking for," Watson said.

He said Leon "gave me no indication that it was anything other than he was having personal problems and was in an attempt to end his life."

Leon was in the Butler County Jail on Tuesday in Poplar Bluff, Mo.

The plane was reported stolen Monday afternoon from Confederation College Flight School at Thunder Bay International Airport in Ontario. It was intercepted by F-16 fighters from the Wisconsin National Guard after crossing into the state near the Michigan state line.

The pilot was flying erratically, didn't communicate with the fighter pilots and acknowledged seeing the F-16s but didn't obey their nonverbal commands to follow them, Kucharek said.

The plane's path over Wisconsin prompted a brief, precautionary evacuation of the Wisconsin capitol in Madison, although there were few workers in the building at the time and the governor was not in town.

The Cessna 172 continued south over Illinois and eastern Missouri before landing near Ellsinore, about 120 miles southwest of St. Louis.

The plane landed about six hours after the reported theft, and had enough fuel for about eight hours of flight, NAADC officials said.

"We tailed it all the way," Maj. Brian Markin said. "Once it landed, our aircraft returned to base."

AP writers Todd Richmond in Madison and James Carlson in Milwaukee contributed to this report.

 


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