Andrew Thornton: who was Cocaine Bear drug smuggler and former cop, what happened to him, how did he die?

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Cocaine Bear starring Ray Liotta is inspired by the true story of a black bear that ingested a duffel bag of cocaine in 1985

The trailer for Cocaine Bear has dropped and people can’t seem to get enough of this violent thriller.

Directed by Elizabeth Banks (Pitch Perfect 2) and starring Ray Liotta (Goodfellas) in his final movie, Cocaine Bear tells the story of a Black Bear who consumes cocaine and goes on a rampage, tearing both the forest and anyone who happens to get in his way, apart.

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The dramatisation is inspired by the true story of a black bear that ingested cocaine out of a duffel bag in September 1985.

However, whilst the thriller movie focuses on the story of an intoxicated bear running rampage, it fails to tell us the real-life tale of former police officer turned drug smuggler Andrew Thorton, who had dropped the cocaine from the sky.

So, who was Andrew Thorton, what happened to him and how did he die? Here’s everything you need to know.

Who was Andrew “Drew” Thorton?

Thorton was a former narcotics officer who got involved in drug smuggling. Born on 30 October, 1940 in Bourbon County, Kentucky, he grew up in Lexington and attended the prestigious Sayre School and Iroquois Polo Club.

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After dropping out of the University of Kentucky he enlisted in the army, receiving a Purple Heart for his service. In 1968 he joined the Lexington-Fayette Police Department, becoming a member of the Lexington police department’s first narcotics office and working alongside the Drug Enforcement Administration’s (DEA).

How did he die?

Thorton got into smuggling whilst studying to be a lawyer, he eventually left the police force and started working as a smuggler full-time.

On 10 September 1985, he was found dead on a driveway in Knoxville Tennessee with a failed parachute strapped to his back and a duffel bag full of 34 bundles of cocaine.

Thorton had been flying the plane from Colombia and dropping packages of cocaine in Georgia. Reported by The Sun, according to the Georgia Bureau of Investigation, Thornton had “hit his head on the tail of the aircraft” as he jumped and failed to open his parachute.

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Following his death, a police officer who had worked with Thorton told The Washington Post: “As a policeman, Andrew could walk the edge only so long before it became routine. Drug smuggling was a natural transition for him. He was a ‘Starsky & Hutch’ type of cop — he drove fast cars, popped in and raided people. He was as flamboyant in his life as he was in his death.”

Is Cocaine Bear based on a true story?

Cocaine bear is based loosely on the story of a bear who was discovered dead in the Chattahoochee National Forest in 1985 after ingesting cocaine that had been dumped from the sky.

An autopsy discovered the animal had around three to four grams of the drug in its blood stream, reported by Associated Press at the time, Gary Garner of the Georgia Bureau of Investigation said: “The bear got to it before we could, and he tore the duffel bag open, got him some cocaine and OD’d (overdosed).”

At the time law enforcement believed the cocaine had been dumped from the sky by Thorton, whilst on a drug run from Colombia, they suspected he had intended to return to the area but died before he was able to.

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The real cocaine bear has since been stuffed and is now on display at the Kentucky for Kentucky Fun Mall.

When is the Cocaine Bear movie coming out?

Starring Ray Liotta and directed by Elizabeth Banks, the Cocaine Bear movie will be released in the UK on 24 February 2023.

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