‘Cocaine Bear’ movie is based on true story. Here’s what really happened in Georgia mountains

FANNIN COUNTY, Ga. — The premise of “Cocaine Bear” sounds like something only Hollywood could come up with: A black bear consumes a large amount of cocaine dropped into a forest and chaos and bloodshed ensues.

With the exception of a few creative liberties, the movie that hits theaters this weekend is based on true events right here in north Georgia.

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In December 1985, agents with the Georgia Bureau of Investigation did get a call about a dead bear in Fannin County area of Chattahoochee National Forest, the AP reported. Authorities found a empty duffel bag that they believed to have contained cocaine at some point.

″The bear got to it before we could, and tore the duffel bag open, got some cocaine and OD’d (overdosed),″ GBI agent Gary Garner said in 1985. ″There’s nothing left but bones and a big hide.”

Investigators said they believed the drugs were connected to Andrew Thornton, who attempted a smuggling operation. The 40-year-old was carrying 77 pounds of the drugs when he parachuted out of a plane and fell to his death in Knoxville, Tennessee, the AP reported.

The plane crashed in North Carolina. Several clothing items, maps of Jamaica and a pilot’s logbook matching the plane’s number were found in Butts County.


While “Cocaine Bear” synopsis and trailer points to a bloody rampage by the bear, there’s no evidence of the bear killing or attacking anyone. The bear also didn’t ingest all of the cocaine.

Dr. Kenneth Alonso, the state’s chief medical examiner at the time, conducted an necropsy and found the bear ingested three or four grams of cocaine into its bloodstream.

″The question is: What happened to that duffel bag?″ Alonso told the AP in 1985. ″The bear does not account for the full duffel bag.″

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Vanity Fair spoke with Fran Wiley, one of the GBI agents in charge of the case, ahead of the “Cocaine Bear” premiere. She pointed out a few facts about the case that the movie may not accurately portray.

“It was a female bear, about 175 pounds, six feet tall, black. A Georgia black bear....when we found the bear, there was no cocaine near her.”

And is Wiley planning on seeing the film?

“I know this is supposed to be a horror-comedy movie, but the only thing it’s going to do is make money for Hollywood. That’s the way the world is. But that’s not the truth of [the story]. So I’m telling you the truth,” she told Vanity Fair.

Cocaine Bear, directed by Elizabeth Banks and the last performance of late actor Ray Liotta, hits theaters Friday.


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