WASHINGTON (CN) — A film producer who claims to know D.B. Cooper’s identity sued the FBI for files from its recently closed investigation of the famous skyjacker who disappeared somewhere over Washington state.
The FBI said in July this year that it was closing the case of the unsolved incident in which “D.B. Cooper” hijacked Northwest Airlines Flight 305 on Nov. 24, 1971, then parachuted out midflight with $200,000 in ransom.
The skyjacking has been exhaustively researched by law enforcement and amateur sleuths, with many unfounded claims about Cooper’s identity. Many believe that Cooper did not survive the leap into the Cascade Mountains.
But Thomas Colbert, a film producer, claims a 72-year-old Vietnam veteran named Robert Rackstraw was the man the world has come to know as D.B. Cooper, and that the FBI closed the case prematurely. Colbert sued the FBI and the Department of Justice on Sept. 8, in a federal FOIA complaint.
Colbert and a group of investigators he calls the Cold Case Team were the subject of a History Channel program this year that he says led the FBI to close the case. He claims that thanks to his work and his team, “the true identity of D.B. Cooper has been learned and is detailed in Colbert’s book ‘The Last Master Outlaw: How He Outfoxed the FBI Six Times But Not A Cold Case Team’ (2016).”
The History Channel show “ultimately steered away from the theory that Rackstraw is D.B. Cooper,” Colbert says in the complaint.
“For reasons unknown, the production team that created the History Channel program intentionally disregarded key pieces of evidence and cooperated with the FBI, resulting in the appearance that the case remains unsolved.
“Upon information and belief, the FBI took advantage of the airing of the program to close its case and hide the fact that it could not develop evidence sufficient to prosecute Rackstraw beyond a reasonable doubt because of earlier Bureau investigative errors and failures.”
Colbert says he and his team have amassed a great deal of evidence confirming Cooper’s identity, though the FBI and History Channel disregarded it. For instance, he says Rackstraw had parachute training, special forces operations and survival training at Fort Bragg, did “freelance” work in Vietnam for the CIA or people “associated with” the CIA, and a history of giving false identification to law enforcement.
After the History Channel broadcast its two-part show on July 10 and 11 this year, the FBI called a news conference in Washington, D.C., and said it was administratively closing the case, which it calls NORJACK, saying, “There isn’t anything new out there.”
“There’s a lot that goes into that decision but really it was just time,” FBI Special Agent in Charge Frank Montoya Jr. said. The FBI’s Seattle field office posted a statement to that effect on July 12.
Only one piece of evidence has been found since Cooper jumped from the commercial jet, which he had ordered to fly low and slowly, and apparently had chosen because it had a rear door, from which he jumped. In 1980, an 8-year-old boy found $5,800 on the shore of the Columbia River in Washington, which matched the serial numbers of Cooper’s ransom money.
Colbert wants to see the FBI files from its Seattle and Portland, Ore., field offices, and from Washington, D.C. He is represented by Mark Zaid.
The man who hijacked the plane called himself Dan Cooper. His name was mistakenly reported in the media as D.B. Cooper, which has stuck.
The small town of Ariel, Wash. hosts a “D.B. Cooper Days” event each year on Nov. 24, where “Cooperites” gather to commemorate the incident and discuss theories about the case.
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