FBI renews interest in D.B. Cooper

D.B. Cooper
An artist's rendering of D.B. Cooper.
Image courtesy of FBI

The man known as D.B. Cooper bought a one-way plane ticket from Portland, Ore. to Seattle, Wash. under the name Dan Cooper. He hijacked the plane, demanded $200,000 in cash and parachuted out with the money. He was never seen again.

FBI Special Agent Larry Carr, who was 4-years-old when the hijacking happened, normally investigates bank robberies. He says he had a choice when he got assigned the case six months ago; he could let it sit on the shelf and languish or he could do something that the FBI has never done with this case: share what they know and see if the public can help.

"I started thinking typically in a bank robbery investigation we want to get as much information out to the public as possible. So I decided I'm going to open the the case files of the D.B. Cooper case and I'm going to treat it just like that. We're going to put as much information to the public -- that maybe it's going to job someone's mind. 'Hey my uncle Joe, he may be D.B. Cooper.' and calls the FBI and it tuns out Uncle Joe was D.B. Cooper."

An October New York Magazine article featured the case of Morris, Minn. resident Lyle Christiansen who is convinced his brother Ken was the notorious hijacker. Ken was a Northwest Airlines employee, was a paratrooper in the military and has similar physical characteristics.

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The FBI is clearing up some common myths about the hijacking. Agency officials believe Cooper was not an expert paratrooper as previously suspected. They also say he had no help on the ground. Agent Larry Carr also says the FBI has strong physical descriptions that rule out Ken Christiansen.

"Just based on that I can say there's no way these stewardesses -- who spent hours with this individual this guy who was pale, five-eight guy with blue eyes and get him confused with a 6 foot, Mediterranean with brown eyes."

While the hijacking occurred over the skies of Oregon and Washington, the crime attracted considerable attention in Minnesota because it was a Northwest Airlines flight. The possibility that Cooper survived the risky jump from the 727 over remote southwest Washington is an intriguing mystery for the public. But Carr says the real person, who parachuted in a business suit and loafers into the frigid Washington night, probably did not make it far.

"He probably perished that night. Now then, my hope is I'm wrong and I get this great phone call one day who's about 85-years-old who says 'son have I got a story to tell you.'"