When Marilyn Simmons first heard the Cessna airplane and fighter jets over her home in rural Ellsinore, Mo., she thought her small town might be under attack.
But when the 59-year-old walked onto her back porch Monday evening and saw the small white plane landing behind a grove of pine trees, she figured there was only one place the pilot -- a Canadian student that officials later said was planning to commit suicide -- would go. Her family's store, the Simmons Grocery & Hardware.
"It's the only place to get a bite for miles," Simmons said. "I called over and told them to be ready."
The store's staff didn't have to do much except point Adam Dylan Leon, 31, to the bathroom. Once freshened up, he had enough change in his pockets to buy a bottle of Gatorade -- but not enough for the beef jerky to settle his grumbling stomach.
He then walked over to a table, sat down and calmly waited for authorities to show up.
It was an oddly anticlimactic ending to a nearly six-hour airborne chase that wandered erratically across five states, authorities said today.
Missouri State Trooper Justin Watson, who arrested Leon at the shop, told ABC's "Good Morning America" that Leon, who was piloting a stolen plane, said he had hoped that U.S. military planes would shoot him down because he was "trying to commit suicide and he didn't have the courage to do it himself."
Leon was being held today in St. Louis by U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement.
FBI officials said Leon, formerly known as Yavuz Burke, was born in Turkey and lived in Ontario. He became a Canadian citizen in 2008 and had no connections to terrorist groups, FBI officials said.
Leon had dreamed of becoming a pilot and, in 2006, had enrolled in the flight management program at Confederation College, according to the school's staff. He had performed well, but had failed one of his tests in 2007 and had to leave the 2 1/2 -year-long program.
Leon reapplied and was readmitted as a first-year student to the program last fall. He had spent the last few weeks training for a cross-country solo flight test, which was scheduled to take place this week, said Laura Craig, a spokeswoman for the school.
Graduates are trained for jobs as single-engine commercial pilots that include flying passengers in and out of rural resort areas, said school president Pat Lang.
Leon's teachers described him as mature and personable.
"He is bright and a very good student," Lang said.
As a student, Leon had access to both the keys and the Cessna 172, which was used regularly by students.
School officials said that around 2:55 p.m. EST on Monday, Leon allegedly stole the plane from the Thunder Bay International Airport, where the school is based.
A pair of F-16s from the Minnesota Air National Guard intercepted him as he flew along the border between Wisconsin and Michigan's Upper Peninsula, said Mike Kucharek, spokesman for the North American Aerospace Defense Command.
The jets circled around him and tried to get his attention, Kucharek said. No shots were fired.
Leon kept flying. He made eye-contact with the jets, but refused to communicate by radio with either the pilots or flight staff on the ground.
As Leon crossed Wisconsin, another pair of F-16s from the Wisconsin Air National Guard took over the pursuit. State officials rushed to evacuate the marble Capitol building in Madison, Wis. It was after 5 p.m., so most legislators and their staff were gone.
Leon kept flying, winding his way into Minnesota, Illinois and Missouri. By the time he reached Ellsinore -- about 160 miles south of St. Louis -- Leon had traveled nearly 800 miles. The plane was low on fuel.
He landed on a clear stretch of U.S. 60 and taxied onto a side road. Law enforcement officials say he got out of the plane and started walking toward town about three miles away.
A local resident offered to give him a lift to the town's sole gas station, where he could get something to eat.
Law enforcement officials arrived to arrest him about half an hour later.
"He was just waiting for us," said Sgt. Marty Elmore, a spokesman for the Missouri Highway Patrol. "I've been on the highway patrol for a little over 26 years, and this is certainly one of the stranger things I've ever seen."Copyright © 2015, Los Angeles Times