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Video: FBI gets new lead in D.B. Cooper case

  1. Transcript of: FBI gets new lead in D.B. Cooper case

    BRIAN WILLIAMS, anchor (Washington, DC): There is word tonight of some fresh evidence in one of the great mysteries in modern American history . It's been 40 years since a guy known as D.B. Cooper exited the rear door of a passenger jet while it was flying with nothing but a parachute and $200,000 in cash, after pulling off the only unsolved hijacking in US history . But we never really did learn who he was. Now that could change as the FBI is back on the trail. Our report tonight from our justice correspondent Pete Williams .

    PETE WILLIAMS reporting: On the stormy night before Thanksgiving 40 years ago, a neatly dressed man claiming to have a bomb hijacked a Northwest Airlines jet. He allowed the plane to land in Seattle to let out the passengers, demanded parachutes and a ransom, and once airborne again, jumped out of the plane and into legend.

    Unidentified Reporter: Law officers in four western states this evening are searching for a man who is perhaps the most clever and certainly the most audacious airplane hijacker of all time.

    P. WILLIAMS: Only a fraction of the $200,000 he took with him has ever been found -- along the Columbia River in Washington state -- but not a trace of him. Now the FBI is chasing a new lead, based on a tip investigators consider credible. They're studying fingerprints from their latest suspect to see if they match prints found on the plane and on items he left behind before he jumped out. He called himself Dan Cooper , and the FBI has already examined more than 1,000 possible suspects. Some investigators believe he took that name from the hero of French comic books about a skydiving pilot. Because the comics were never translated, agents believe the hijacker spent time overseas, maybe in the US Air Force . The author of a new book about the 40-year-old mystery says it has an enduring appeal.

    Mr. GEOFFREY GRAY (Author, "Skyjack: The Hunt for D.B. Cooper"): The courage that it took to actually have the guts to jump out of a plane over the middle of nowhere , Pacific Northwest mountain land, I mean, that is an act of courage that I think we all sort of secretly wish we might be able to have, but don't.

    P. WILLIAMS: The FBI admits this new lead was a long shot, and the initial results have not been promising. But they still want to know, who really was behind the nation's only unsolved airplane hijacking? Pete Williams , NBC News, Washington.

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