A Skagit County man is the focus of a new feature-length film after claiming to be D.B. Cooper, an unidentified man who hijacked and parachuted out of a commercial airplane on Nov. 24, 1971, with a bag of stolen cash.
"I am DB Cooper" explores the assertions of 70-year-old Rodney Lewis Bonnifield that he single-handedly pulled off the only unsolved plane hijacking in U.S. history.
Filmmaker TJ Regan first learned of Bonnifield from Mike Rocha, father of Carlos Rocha who serves as the bail agent at All City Bail Bonds in Mount Vernon.
The Skagit County Sheriff's Office had arrested Bonnifield in October 2016 and charged him with second-degree assault in the stabbing of a man near Conway. All City Bail Bonds posted Bonnifield's bond.
Carlos Rocha and Bonnifield developed a rapport as Bonnifield came in monthly to pay his bond fees, Regan said. One day, Bonnifield told Carlos Rocha he was D.B. Cooper.
Regan said he had never heard of the story of D.B. Cooper before Mike Rocha told him about Bonnifield.
Bonnifield told the Rochas he planned on heading to the Columbia River to dig up the money from the 1971 hijacking that he had buried, and he wanted help due to his age, Regan said. Mike Rocha told Regan they should film it.
Regan researched, watched and read whatever he could in order to understand the facts of the D.B. Cooper case, he said. He spent a weekend trying to poke holes in Bonnifield's story.
Regan said he asked Bonnifield why he chose military parachutes to jump out of the plane.
"Without even a blink of an eye, he said, 'Oh. Because I knew that the military had packed the ... chutes, so I knew I wasn't going to die,'" Regan said.
After filming the documentary detailing the search for D.B. Cooper's buried money, Regan decided to write a script for narrative sections to make the film more entertaining, he said.
Ryan Cory plays Bonnifield's younger self in the narrative sections of the film.
Cory said he felt honored to have Regan approach him for the role.
"I think that what's cool about TJ's film is that it's ... just taking all of those old D.B. Cooper myths and lore about how he's a badass, ... (and) like, no. This is a 23-year-old kid on the run, getting high on his own supply and making bad decisions," Cory said.
He said Regan gave him creative freedom to put his own spin on the character.
"It was really fun and just a joy to do," Cory said.
"I am DB Cooper" will be released Friday in selected theaters and on demand.