The Real Story Behind "Cocaine Bear"

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tags: 1980s, drugs, Appalachia, wildlife, Cocaine

Andrew C. Thornton II, whose life was once filled with privilege and promise, decided that now was the time to parachute from a twin-engine plane in the dead of night to smuggle the $15 million worth of Colombian cocaine that was strapped to his body into the United States.

A Kentucky blue blood who had been a narcotics officer, Thornton thought he had found his calling as the leader of a local drug-smuggling ring. Now he was in the middle of his most ambitious drug run yet. But when Thornton opened his parachute too late on Sept. 11, 1985, the free fall from thousands of feet sent him crashing into a backyard in Knoxville, Tenn., instantly killing the 40-year-old, who was wearing a bulletproof vest, night-vision goggles and Gucci loafers.

Before Thornton fell from the sky and realized what author Sally Denton described as “the dark side of the American Dream” in an article for The Washington Post, another failure during his fatal mission would prove to have a much longer legacy. When Thornton was forced to dump about 200 pounds of cocaine by parachute over Georgia after realizing the load was too heavy for the aircraft, an American black bear got hold of one of the duffel bags of dispatched drugs and started eating the coke. Three months later, after authorities discovered that a 175-pound bear had died of what the coroner described as a stomach “literally packed to the brim with cocaine,” the animal was given a new name in popular culture: “Cocaine Bear.”

“The bear got to it before we could, and he tore the duffel bag open, got him some cocaine and OD’d,” Gary Garner, an official with the Georgia Bureau of Investigation, said at the time, according to UPI.

Added Kenneth Alonso, the state’s chief medical examiner, who performed the autopsy, “There isn’t a mammal on the planet that could survive that.”

But a new movie inspired by the true events poses a counterfactual: What would have happened if the bear had survived and gone on a bloody bender? “Cocaine Bear,” a dark comedy that premieres Friday in theaters nationwide, is a highly fictionalized account, in which the titular 500-pound American black bear eats a duffel bag of cocaine and goes on a killing rampage in Georgia, forcing tourists to band together to survive an apex predator hopped up on coke. The movie has been met with much anticipation from moviegoers after the trailer went viral late last year, racking up more than 16 million views on YouTube.

Read entire article at Washington Post