By Everton Bailey Jr. | The Oregonian & OregonLive; September 8, 2016
A Los Angeles-based filmmaker has filed a lawsuit Thursday to compel the FBI and the U.S. Department of Justice to release the investigative files in the notorious D.B. Cooper hijacking case.
The lawsuit was filed in U.S. District Court in Washington D.C., and comes after the FBI announced in July that it had closed the case because investigators still couldn’t definitively identify the man who parachuted from a Boeing 727 flying over Washington State in 1971 and disappeared with $200,000 in cash.
Tom Colbert, the filmmaker and a former journalist, claims the FBI’s announcement came a day after a two-part series aired on The History Channel that featured him and a team of experts conducting their own investigation on D.B. Cooper’s true identity. Colbert says his team found more than 100 pieces of evidence that point to Cooper being Robert W. Rackstraw, a 72-year-old Vietnam War veteran with parachute training who lives in Southern California.
Rackstraw has claimed to be D.B. Cooper in the past, but wouldn’t confirm or deny it when Colbert interviewed him for the show, the lawsuit said. The show, “D.B. Cooper: Case Closed?” aired on July 10 and 11. According to the lawsuit, Colbert made a Freedom of Information Act request for the Cooper case file to the FBI on July 12 and didn’t receive a response.
The lawsuit said the bureau “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.”
In a July 12 statement issued by the FBI’s Seattle field office, the agency said it began redirecting resources devoted to the D.B. Cooper case on July 8 to focus on other priorities. The evidence collected over the past 45 years would be preserved for historical purposes at the FBI Headquarters in Washington D.C., the statement said. Investigators would no longer pursue tips provided by the public unless Cooper’s parachutes, the missing money or other specific physical evidence was found.
A spokesman for the FBI’s Seattle field office, which led the decades-long investigation, did not comment on the lawsuit Thursday.
On Nov. 24, 1971, a man said to be in his 40s and wearing dark sunglasses bought a ticket under the name “Dan Cooper” and boarded a Seattle-bound flight at Portland International Airport. He showed a flight attendant a note soon after takeoff saying he had a bomb. He then demanded $200,000 and parachutes.
Cooper let three dozen passengers off the plan when it landed in Seattle in exchange for the cash and parachutes, then ordered the remaining crew to fly south. Cooper, wearing a business suit, later jumped out the back of the plane over woods in southwest Washington.
Neither Cooper nor the parachute was found, but $5,800 cash matching the serial numbers of the ransom money was discovered in 1980 buried along the Columbia River. He began being referred to as “D.B. Cooper” after a wire service report mistakenly identified him under that name.