‘Cocaine Bear’ at Lexington store is not the real bear; sources confirm

Just when the story of the so-called Cocaine Bear, a drug-sniffing movie celebrity couldn’t get...
Just when the story of the so-called Cocaine Bear, a drug-sniffing movie celebrity couldn’t get any weirder, it does.(WAVE News)
Published: Dec. 19, 2022 at 12:33 PM EST
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LOUISVILLE, KY (WAVE) - Just when the story of the so-called Cocaine Bear, a drug-sniffing movie celebrity couldn’t get any weirder, it does.

The Universal Pictures film Cocaine Bear is due out in February. Directed by Elizabeth Banks and starring Ray Liotta in his final role, it’s inspired by a true story rooted in Kentucky. One Lexington, Ky. business is already cashing in on the animal’s wild tale that was destined for Hollywood.

People from all over the world are already traveling to KYforKY, a souvenir-type shop promoting itself as the owner of the real ill-fated animal, who they’ve affectionately named Pablo Escobear.

Not only can fans take selfies with the taxidermied celebrity, they can also buy T-shirts, hats, snow globes, puzzles, socks, earrings, buttons, or other items from their selection.

The store has told the fascinating tale of Andrew Thornton, a former Lexington police officer turned drug smuggler who chucks millions of dollars’ worth of cocaine out of a fleeing Cessna plane only to perish during his parachuting attempt.

That part of the narrative is true. The tale often told by the store includes that a bear in the woods found the discarded drugs, overdosed, and ended up stuffed. After that, the story goes, the bear was owned by country music legend Waylon Jennings, and somehow traveled to Las Vegas before falling into the possession of KYforKY.

Before knowing of the Netflix flick, WAVE News started to look into the irresistible 40-year-old story. We embarked on the production of a documentary that would take us from the dense Georgia mountains, down Kentucky’s Cocaine Corridor and to the very spot where Thornton died, still gripping some of the purest cocaine Knoxville had ever seen.

Our intrigue only grew as we confirmed the unbelievable accounts, most of which turned out to be true.

From the gold coins Thornton had when he died, to the day he arranged his own shooting outside of a Lexington restaurant, each person we spoke to had new details to share of the story that would resurface decades later.

It was through the months-long search for answers that we debunked one of the most popular anecdotes. Turns out, the story surrounding one of music’s legends owning the bear was just a legend itself according to Shooter Jennings, Waylon’s son.

“Waylon Jennings never owned a taxidermy bear of any kind, and never lived in Las Vegas which some have attributed to this story,” Shooter’s manager confirmed.

Our research made other shocking discoveries, some of which would agonizingly disappoint the hundreds of people treasuring their Pablo Escobear selfies.

“No Pablo Escobear, I’m sorry,” one of the lead agents in the criminal case told us. “I feel bad for the bear.”

The official cause of death was cocaine ingestion, according to the medical examiner and government reports gathered exclusively by WAVE News. Contrary to the story told by KYforKY, the bear’s stomach was not packed with the drug. During the course of our investigation, the medical examiner told WAVE there was no stomach left at all by the time the bear was found.

“We had bones and a little bit of hide,” the medical examiner told us. “We had bones and used them to give us an idea of the height and weight the bear would have been.”

The real drug-ingesting animal was found in such bad shape, there’s no way the bear could have undergone taxidermy, the medical examiner said.

Furthermore, Pablo, he added, was female.

“About 4 foot tall,” he said. “We had to reconstruct the size of the bear. We only had parts of the bear.”

He did speculate the bear experienced a “kick” from the powdery drug.

“How did the bear react?” we asked the medical examiner. “I say like some humans. They take cocaine and they drop dead,” he said.

WAVE has tried over the span of several weeks to reach KYforKY for comment, but they have not responded to our requests.

Look for the WAVE News documentary for the unbelievable, yet true story of Andrew Thornton and his bear in early 2023.