On November 24, 1971, a man identifying himself as Dan Cooper boarded a Northwest Orient Airlines Boeing 727 in Portland, Oregon, and hijacked the plane, extorting $200,000 in ransom and parachuting from the aircraft somewhere over Washington State.
This daring and mysterious incident has since become known as the D.B. Cooper case, and it remains one of the most famous unsolved crimes in American history. Dan Cooper became more commonly known as D.B. Cooper after a reporter mispronounced his name.
The D.B. Cooper case began on the evening of November 24, 1971, when a man calling himself Dan Cooper boarded a Northwest Orient Airlines flight from Portland, Oregon to Seattle, Washington. He was described as a middle-aged white man, approximately 6 feet tall, wearing a dark suit, black tie, white shirt, and carrying a briefcase. Cooper took a seat in the rear of the plane and ordered a bourbon and soda.
Shortly after takeoff, Cooper handed a note to a flight attendant named Florence Schaffner, who assumed it was just his phone number. However, when she read the note, she discovered that it was actually a demand for $200,000 in cash and four parachutes. Cooper also opened his briefcase and showed Schaffner what appeared to be wires and red sticks, which he claimed was a bomb.
The plane landed in Seattle, and the FBI and local authorities were notified. The money and parachutes were gathered and delivered to Cooper on the plane. Cooper then released the passengers and some of the crew, but he kept several members of the flight crew on board.
The plane took off once again and followed the directions given by Cooper by heading in a southerly direction toward Mexico City. But, somewhere over the southwestern part of the state of Washington, Cooper opened the back stairs of the plane, grabbed the money, and jumped out of the aircraft with parachutes.
Search and Investigation In The D.B. Cooper Case
The search for Cooper and the money began immediately. The FBI initiated one of the largest manhunts in American history, using helicopters, airplanes, and ground teams to search the rugged terrain of Washington and Oregon. Despite a massive effort, Cooper and the money were never found.
The FBI interviewed hundreds of people and followed thousands of leads, but they were never able to positively identify Cooper or determine his whereabouts. In 1980, a boy found a small amount of the ransom money buried along the banks of the Columbia River near Vancouver, Washington, but this discovery provided no further clues. Along with the money FBI agents found Cooper’s black clip-on tie, tie clip, and two of the four parachutes.
Suspects In The D.B. Cooper Case
While the FBI has conducted investigations into hundreds of possible suspects over the years, the agency has never been able to positively identify anybody as DB Cooper. Kenneth Christiansen, Richard McCoy Jr., and Robert Rackstraw are three of the most significant suspects in this investigation.
Kenneth Christiansen served in the military as a paratrooper and then worked for Northwest Orient Airlines. His brother and a few of his other friends pointed the finger of suspicion at Kenneth Christiansen. But, the FBI was unable to provide evidence that definitively linked him to the crime.
Richard McCoy Jr. was a former Army helicopter pilot. McCoy hijacked a United Airlines flight in 1972 and demanded a ransom of $500,000 before parachuting from the plane. He was later captured and sentenced to prison, but some people believe he may have also been DB Cooper.
Robert Rackstraw was a Vietnam War veteran with a history of criminal activity. Rackstraw was investigated as a potential suspect in the 1970s and again in the 2010s. He reportedly boasted to friends that he was DB Cooper, but he has denied involvement in the crime.
Theories and Speculations
Over the years, many theories and speculations have emerged about the identity of D.B. Cooper and what became of him. Some have suggested that he died during the jump or was killed shortly after landing, while others believe he managed to escape and live out his life in anonymity.
One popular theory is that Cooper was a former military paratrooper with knowledge of how to jump from a moving plane and survive. Some have even suggested that he may have been a CIA operative or a member of a secret government agency.
Others have speculated that Cooper was a criminal with ties to organized crime or that he may have been a disgruntled airline employee. Some have even claimed that they knew Cooper personally or that they were related to him.
Despite decades of investigation and speculation, the identity of D.B. Cooper remains a mystery. The case continues to capture the public’s imagination, and new theories and speculations continue to emerge. Whether Cooper died during the jump, escaped and lived out his life in anonymity, or was killed shortly after landing, it seems likely that the truth will never be known.
The D.B. Cooper case stands as a testament to the power of mystery and the enduring fascination that unsolved crimes can hold over our collective consciousness.
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