The Incredible Story Of Kentucky's Cocaine Bear

Some have dubbed him "Pablo Escobear." The Kentucky for Kentucky store has featured him on T-shirts calling him "Cokey the Bear" because his story "has spread like wildfire." He is of course the notorious Cocaine Bear, a tragic attraction whose lifeless body was found "filled to the brim with cocaine" in 1985. That sounds like something a Kentuckian hallucinated after smoking way too much bluegrass. Unsurprisingly, Cocaine Bear's origin story does indeed involve someone from Kentucky getting extremely high, just not in the way that's normally associated with booger sugar.

KFC: Kentuckian Flying Cocaine

The coke-fueled insanity began with a man named Andrew Thornton II. Roadside America writes that Thornton belonged to a well-to-do horse-breeding family from Kentucky. On paper, he didn't seem like the kind of guy who would horse around with cocaine or any other drug — not even glue fumes. According to Kentucky for Kentucky he was a childhood troublemaker who ended up attending a military academy. At first glance, you might assume he learned his lesson. Thornton grew up to become a Lexington narcotics officer and later a practicing lawyer.

In hindsight, this cop looks like an undercover criminal who used the scales of justice to weigh drugs. In 1981, Thornton faced allegedly tried to steal weapons from a naval base and planned to smuggle a half ton of marijuana. The pot plot was apparently a gateway to cocaine trafficking because four years later, Thornton jumped out of a plane with roughly 75 pounds of cocaine like he was the crime-loving lovechild of Tony Montana and D.B. Cooper.

It's raining men and snowing cocaine

Andrew Thornton II might have thought he was flying high in 1985. But his cocaine enterprise came crashing down figuratively and literally when he plummeted to his death during a botched smuggling operation. Citing the Georgia Bureau of Investigation, Roadside America says Thornton smacked his head on the tail of the aircraft and waited too long to open his parachute. Kentucky for Kentucky claims he got he got entangled in his parachute. Either way, he became a grisly ornament on a driveway in Knoxville, Tennessee.

Three months later, authorities discovered what became of his sky coke. An incredibly unfortunate bear must have had a sweet tooth because it ate about $15 million worth of nose candy. A medical examiner remarked, "There isn't a mammal on the planet that could survive that. Cerebral hemorrhaging, respiratory failure, hyperthermia, renal failure, heart failure, stroke. You name it, that bear had it." The bear also had a strange postmortem adventure, ending up in the hands of legendary country singer Waylon Jennings before it eventually became a Kentucky tourist attraction.