- The Washington Times - Wednesday, April 8, 2009

ST. LOUIS (AP) | Federal prosecutors have charged a Canadian flight student with piloting a stolen airplane into the United States in what they say was a suicide attempt.

Adam Dylan Leon, 31, was charged Tuesday with transportation of stolen property and illegal entry.

According to the federal complaint, Mr. Leon said he flew the plane into the U.S. expecting to be shot down by military aircraft. The complaint states that Mr. Leon told authorities he recently was being treated by a psychiatrist.

Authorities said Mr. Leon flew the plane for six hours Monday night before landing it on a rural Missouri road when it started to run out of fuel.

He was escorted along the way by U.S. warplanes.

The plane was tracked as a “flight safety issue” and was not thought to be a terrorist threat, Mike Kucharek, spokesman for the North American Aerospace Defense Command, said in a telephone interview from Colorado Springs. A background check of Mr. Leon showed no connection to terrorism, FBI agent John Gillies said.

Missouri State Trooper Justin Watson, who arrested Mr. 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 Watson said.

Carl Rusnok, a spokesman for U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement, said Mr. Leon was born in Turkey with the name Yavuz Berke, but moved to Canada and became a naturalized citizen last year.

The plane was reported stolen Monday afternoon from Confederation College Flight School at Thunder Bay International Airport in Ontario. The college said the flight was not authorized but that Mr. Leon was enrolled in its program.

The plane was intercepted by F-16 fighters from the Wisconsin National Guard after crossing into the state near the Michigan state line.

The pilot flew erratically and didn't communicate with the fighter pilots, Mr. Kucharek said at the Aerospace Defense Command. The pilot acknowledged seeing the F-16s, but didn't obey their nonverbal commands to follow them, he said.

The plane's path over Wisconsin prompted a brief, precautionary evacuation of the state Capitol in Madison.


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