KNOXVILLE, Tenn. (WATE) — The story of a black bear finding cocaine said to have been dropped from the sky by a smuggler has ties to Knoxville dating back to 1985, and the story is now being adapted into a movie called “Cocaine Bear.”
The newly released trailer paints the horror comedy film to be much different from the real-life case. However former Knox County Sheriff Jimmy “JJ” Jones was on the case back in 1985 and said it is as unusual as it sounds.
“It was almost like a movie,” Jones laughed. “You wouldn’t believe it; it seemed too good to be true.”
Jones said he had only been on the force for a few years when the Metro Narcotics Unit got an unusual call.
“The way the call came in, an elderly gentleman had called the dispatch and said there was somebody in his yard and he didn’t look like he was moving, and they needed to send the police out there to see what was going on,” Jones said.
According to the Georgia Bureau of Investigation, former Kentucky Narcotics Investigator turned smuggler Andrew Thornton fell to his death carrying too heavy of a load of cocaine while parachuting.
The story startled the Knoxville community back then. One man from an interview back in 1985 said, “I saw this parachute and a gentleman laying on the ground and Mr. Myers asked me what it was.”
Mr. Myers is Fred Myers — the homeowner whose yard the parachutist landed in, according to those old WATE 6 interviews. Cocaine was found alongside the body that was part of a trail left behind by the parachutist, according to the GBI.
Several weeks after the dead parachutist was found, a black bear was discovered dead from apparently ingesting the drug in the mountains of Fannin County, Georgia. Next to the bear were 40 packages of cocaine ripped open and scattered over a hillside.
“They put two and two together, and then we started tracking where the bags of cocaine were thrown out and it was a multi-agency case. FBI, TBI, everyone got involved with it.” Jones said. “In 1985 that was a huge amount of cocaine. I mean when you talked about 300 pounds of cocaine in 1985, that’s a lot of cocaine.”
Although the new movie “Cocaine Bear” doesn’t necessarily follow the case, Jones said he’s intrigued by the horror comedy based on actual events.
“I’ll watch it,” Jones said, laughing.
Cocaine Bear a true story? Learn the truth behind the bizarre case
The movie “Cocaine Bear,” directed by American actress and filmmaker Elizabeth Banks, is scheduled to hit theaters on February 24, 2023. Read more about how Knoxville helped inspire the new movie.
A Lexington, Kentucky business, Kentucky for Kentucky Fun Mall, claims to have acquired the taxidermy bear after a wild tale involving several different owners including country music legend Waylon Jennings.
Editor’s note: The amount of time between the death of the parachutist in Knoxville to the discovery of the bear was corrected