Cocaine Bear: The Real “Cocaine Bear”: A 175-Pound Beast, A Drug Smuggler Who Died Wearing Gucci Loafers

The movie “Cocaine Bear” starring Elizabeth Banks is currently playing in theatres, bringing with it an onslaught of severed limbs, bloody bodies, and gruesome mayhem. However, that is not exactly how the true tale of Pablo Eskobear, also known as the Cocaine Bear, would be described. Jimmy Warden’s screenplay for Banks’ movie was influenced by the discovery of a dead bear in Georgia’s Chattahoochee National Forest in 1985.

The real-life events that inspired “Cocaine Bear” began in September 1985, when drug trafficker Andrew Thornton perished in a parachuting accident. The prevailing theory holds that Thorton was carrying 880 pounds of cocaine when he decided to throw some of the stash out of the plane and take more with him when he parachuted out because he believed the Feds were pursuing him. His strategy failed.

On September 11, 1985, Thorton was confirmed dead. In Knoxville, Tennessee, he was discovered in a driveway while sporting Gucci loafers and a strapped-on stash of cocaine estimated to be worth $15 million.

Four months later, a bear entered the picture. A 175-pound black bear “died of an overdose of cocaine after discovering a batch of the drug,” according to a December 1985 New York Times report. In the Chattahoochee National Forest, the bear’s body was discovered.

According to a report in The Times from United Press International, “the cocaine was dropped from a plane piloted by Andrew Thornton, a convicted drug trafficker who died on September 11 in Knoxville, Tennessee, because he was transporting too heavy a load while parachuting.” The bear was discovered among 40 opened plastic containers with traces of cocaine, according to the bureau, on Friday in northern Georgia.

Dr. Kenneth Alonso, Georgia’s chief medical examiner at the time, later released findings that were reported by The Associated Press. Three to four grammes of cocaine were discovered in the bear’s bloodstream during an autopsy by the doctor, though the bear may have ingested even more. Long-standing rumours claim that the bear consumed the equivalent of about 35 pounds of cocaine—all 40 containers—in one sitting.

In reality, the story of the Cocaine Bear only goes so far. There were no additional victims or limbs severed from the body that could be traced back to the bear, unlike the recent Universal Pictures-backed horror comedy. The movie, according to screenwriter Jimmy Warden, is “my twisted fantasy of what I wish actually happened after the bear did all that cocaine,” rather than historical fiction.

According to Banks, she decided to take the helm of “Cocaine Bear” because she wanted to give the bear his own voice. After reading the original reports from 1985, she stated that she felt “a deep sympathy for the bear.”

Banks remarked, “I really felt like this is so screwed up that this bear got dragged into this bad drug run and ends up dead. I had the impression that this was a revenge tale for the bear.

Currently showing in theatres across the nation is “Cocaine Bear.”

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