Sunday, July 31, 2011

America's Least Wanted found?

You know him, you love him.  The skyjacker whose pseudonym "Dan Cooper" became famous as its corrupted version "D.B. Cooper."  Has the FBI finally found him?

The FBI today revealed that it believes it has America's most elusive fugitive finally in its sights 40 years after famed hijacker DB Cooper disappeared when he jumped out of a plane over Washington.

Investigators said that they are testing the fingerprints of a new suspect after what they said is the 'most promising' lead to date in its bid to crack America's only unsolved hijacking.

A mystery hijacker calling himself Dan Cooper, also known as DB Cooper, boarded a Northwest flight in Portland for a flight to Seattle on the night of November 24 1971, and commandeered the plane, claiming he had dynamite.

In Seattle, he demanded and got $200,000 and four parachutes and demanded to be flown to Mexico.

Somewhere over southwestern Washington, he jumped out the plane's tail exit with two of the chutes, and was never seen or heard from again.

The FBI today announced that it has a new suspect in the case who they are hoping to link to a tie Cooper left on the plane and cigarette butts in an ashtray using DNA testing and fingerprints.

There have been more than 1,000 suspects over the past four decades, but the FBI have described the new lead as 'looking like our most promising one to date'.

'We do actually have a new suspect we're looking at,' said FBI spokesman Ayn Dietrich as she revealed the twist in the investigation.
'It comes from a credible lead who came to our attention recently via a law enforcement colleague,' she said.

'The credible lead is somebody whose possible connection to the hijacker is strong,' she told the Daily Telegraph. 'And the suspect is not a name that's come up before.'

The FBI said that an item belonging to the suspect has been sent for testing at a forensics lab in Quantico, Virginia.

'We're hoping there are fingerprints they can take off of it,' she said. 'It would be a significant lead.
And this is looking like our most promising one to date.'

The FBI has refused to reveal if the suspect is still alive. 'Generally the large majority of subjects we look into now are already deceased based on the timing,' said Ms Dietrich.
The Daily Mail article includes an FBI map with the area surrounding the hijacking:

FBI diagram of flight path of Cooper's hijacked plane, his estimated landing zone and the locations of evidence that has been found over the years.

Cooper was indeed a criminal, but he has become a cult hero over the years, and it's easy to see why.  He wasn't a raving lunatic who was ready to kill at the slightest provocation.  While he obviously threatened the crew and passengers, he was well-dressed, very polite, calm and confident.  He didn't want to alarm the passengers and took great care to have as many of them as possible released while keeping just enough to fly the plane.   With the exception of an apparent unfamiliarity with parachutes, his hijacking was very-well planned, demonstrating a knowledge of the terrain and of piloting.  He took only the money, not robbing the passengers and crew of their valuables, and so really only hurt an insurance company.  For these reasons, over the years, a number of the passengers and crew have even expressed admiration for the guy.  Cooper seems to have had no criminal record before this hijacking and no criminal record since. 

So this seems to have been intended as a one-time score.  I am second to no one in toughness on crime, and make no apologies for what many consider to be my ruthless philosophy.  And Cooper's behavior here should certainly be discouraged and prosecuted if possible (there remains a grand jury indictment against him).  But on the scale of criminals and the threats they pose to society, based on the evidence presented above, Dan Cooper seems to present the lowest level of threat. 

Indeed, many of the reader comments left on the Daily Mail's site have expressed disgust that the FBI has spend so long and so many resources to catch this guy.

Except, this is the only unsolved skyacking in FBI history.  It's understandable and admirable that they would want to solve this case and make their record perfect.

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