Everyone knows “that guy.” That guy who always tells a big whopper of a story. That guy who’s always bragging about what he’s done. That guy who HAS to be lying about winning the four gold medals at the Sarajevo Olympics. However, part of you believes That Guy, because some of his stories are true, he really does have an old picture of himself and Richard Nixon. He really does have a scar from a bear attack. Rackstraw is That Guy. Thomas Colbert (TJC) believes Rackstraw is DB Cooper. (Most of the information found here is from TJC’s website and book.) Rackstraw is a living person, but after his love affair with the media in the late 1970’s during his murder trial, and the subsequent History Channel special about him 2016, make him a public figure in my estimation.
Rackstraw went into the army in the 1960’s, attending the infantry jump school at Fort Benning in 1967. In 1969, he becomes both a fixed-wing and helicopter pilot. Rackstraw serves in Vietnam. According to crime television guru and author Thomas Colbert (TJC), Rackstraw does some freelance work for the CIA while there. When Rackstraw returns stateside, he gets embroiled in a messy divorce. The Army decides to look into Rackstraw’s background after he’s accused of domestic assault. They find that Lt. Rackstraw lied about his college credentials, and lied about his rank and military decorations. He is forced to resign from the military.
From Alabama, Rackstraw heads to the Pacific Northwest where he works as a charter pilot for realtors who need aerial photographs. He spends a lot of time in the area, up to and after the Cooper hijacking. He eventually ends up working for a floor and deck laying company in San Francisco. Rackstraw’s career in crime begins in earnest at this time. He will often wear a suit and tie around shipyards, looking like a supervisor or office worker. This allows him to steal valuables with impunity. Sometime during this period, Rackstraw meets longtime confidant Dick Briggs (who later became a drug dealer in the late 70s). By the mid-1970’s, Rackstraw was on law enforcement’s radar. He was implicated in the theft of military weapons and explosives; check-kiting, ramming his vehicle through a business competitor’s building, stealing goods, stealing dynamite and murdering his stepfather… Among other crimes. He goes on trial for murder in July of 1978. Rackstraw shows up in a wheelchair, claiming to be a disabled veteran of five Vietnam campaigns as a Green Beret captain. His actual service record doesn’t show up until after the trial. He is found “Not Guilty.”
In October of 1978, still looking at criminal charges for his other hobbies, Rackstraw fakes his own death. He is heard sending a “Mayday” call over the radio, claiming to ditch into the sea near Monterey Bay. Rackstraw is eventually found and arrested by police in January of 1979. He spends the next year in jail before being released. Law enforcement clears him of being DB Cooper at this time. He stays out of trouble, and out of the media spotlight, for the next seventeen years. He becomes a college instructor with degrees in economics and law, before getting into trouble again. This time around the charges are mundane, DUI and resisting arrest. The public becomes familiar with Rackstraw again in 2016, when he is prominently featured as a Cooper suspect in a History Channel special on Norjak.
Why is Rackstraw a Cooper suspect? For one thing, he claimed to be our mysterious hijacker on at least one occasion while he was in jail. He abandoned his confession almost immediately, probably when he found out he could still be charged with the hijacking. There are other reasons too, Rackstraw lived in the Pacific Northwest, knew the area from his job as a pilot, and his whereabouts during the hijacking are unknown. Rackstraw has the skills Cooper needed. He went through jump school and would have been quite comfortable with parachuting gear. He may have learned in Vietnam that the 727 was being used as jump platform for secret missions being done by the CIA. He has the criminal background Ralph Himmelsbach was looking for. (Though Rackstraw’s career would be the reverse of what we expect: he would have started with the big heist, then moved on to smaller thefts and cons before working his way back up to murder.) Rackstraw even has a relative named “Ed Cooper” who might have inspired the Dan Cooper alias.
There’s always a catch, however. Rackstraw would have been in his late 20’s at the time of the hijacking. Some reports on Cooper put him as old as 60, but most witnesses put the hijacker in his mid to late forties. Rackstraw doesn’t have the swarthy complexion Cooper is reported to have. Tina Mucklow, the stewardess who spent the most time with Cooper, did not think Rackstraw was the hijacker when she was shown his picture and video on the History Channel special.
The biggest hurdle in connecting Rackstraw with Cooper remains the Tena Bar money find. TJC claims Rackstraw had his friend Briggs give the money to Dwayne Ingram to “find” on Tena Bar, thus throwing the feds off his trail. There are a number of problems with this theory, chief among them the fact the money had obviously been exposed to the elements long enough to alter the bills substantially. They had clumped together into a single, solid mass. The rubber bands attached to the bills crumbled away when touched. There was a field of money shards found up and down the bar, and there is video of FBI agents unearthing fragments of money at least a foot deep into the sand. There is simply no possibility the money was planted there in the late 1970’s as Colbert claims.
When you’re looking for DB Cooper suspects, a military-trained con man with the gift of gab and a long history of stunning crimes is a good place to go looking. But you can’t ignore the fact he was investigated by law enforcement and cleared of the hijacking. He never worked in an industry that used pure titanium. And none of the main witnesses in the case identify him as Dan Cooper. However much Rackstraw may be “That Guy,” he’s not our guy. He’s not our hijacker.