North Carolina man accused of vandalizing airport, trying to ste - WRCBtv.com | Chattanooga News, Weather & Sports

North Carolina man accused of vandalizing airport, trying to steal planes

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"Can't figure out what the purpose was," says Gene Kennedy, a pilot. "Can't figure out what the purpose was," says Gene Kennedy, a pilot.
CHEROKEE COUNTY, NC (WRCB) - A North Carolina man is facing a slew of charges. He is accused of breaking into an airport, vandalizing several planes, then taking a John Deer tractor on a joyride.

He was caught and arrested by the Cherokee County Sheriff's Office.  The incident happened early Monday morning at the Western Carolina Regional Airport in Andrews.

Early Monday morning Cherokee County deputies came knocking on the door of 22-year-old Joseph Jumper's house, just yards from where witnesses say he crashed a stolen $20,000 John Deer tractor.

"It's a strange thing," says Gene Kennedy.

It turns out Jumper found the tractor parked at the Western Carolina Regional Airport.

"Can't figure out what the purpose was," says Kennedy, a pilot.

Deputies told Kennedy the stolen tractor was only the end of Jumper's adventures. Earlier that morning they say he went on a vandalism spree at the airport.

"The cover to the airplane was on the ground and the chalks were out and the plane was untied."

Kennedy says someone tried kicking in the glass on the front window of his Cessna.

"The door was open. And we got inside the airplane all the switches had been left on including the gear retraction switch."

He believes Jumper was attempting to fly his plane.

"Somebody obviously tried to start it, at least, if not take it," says Kennedy.

Deputies say Jumper tried breaking into at least six airplanes, as well as kicking in doors to hangers. He also took a Tug vehicle for a spin, leaving it abandoned in a field.

"A lot of other damage. The door locks on the big hanger apparently were broken," says Kennedy.

"I'm really more curious about why he did it," says flight instructor Andy Ernst.

Ernst says it may be tempting to chuckle at first but Jumper did thousands of dollars worth of damage.

"It's a lot of money for someone to do that. It's just like someone breaking in your house an trashing your house for no reason at all," says Ernst.

Kennedy says he is just happy Jumper did not know how to get off the ground.

"I guess the bottom line is if you try to take an airplane from a field like this you better know what you're doing because it's a quick way to the grave."

Jumper faces several charges including felony breaking and entering and vehicle theft. He is being held in the Cherokee County Detention Center on a $50,000 bond.


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