In the early morning hours of October 4, 1971, Commander 58 November was hijacked. It landed in Jacksonville where the FBI was waiting. The plane came to a full stop on the tarmac. Nine minutes later FBI agents opened fire, spurring the hijacker to kill everyone onboard before turning the gun on himself.
The pilot's widow, Janie Downs, filed a wrongful death suit against the FBI and J. Edgar Hoover.
The trial would be heard by a former FBI agent, who refused a jury trial. The legal battles that followed would make history. They would also make life unbearable at times for the young widowed mother of two young boys. The case would launch the legal and political careers of Jim Neal, Jack Butler, Judge Gil Merritt, and Senator Fred Thompson.
The FBI was ordered to turn over certain documents to the Federal Court Judge. Director J. Edgar Hoover and Attorney General John Mitchell refused to turn over files that would have fatally damaged the FBI's defense.
The FBI used brutal intimidation and smear tactics to discourage Janie Downs from calling into question the alleged efficiency of J Edgar Hoover and his FBI. The Bureau even filed a counter suit charging that "The Pilot failed to disarm his passengers prior to boarding the plane..."
These are my father’s last known words before the FBI raided his plane.
This 90-minute documentary will include interviews with the people who were involved, newscasts, secret files the FBI had ordered sealed, and the actual audio of the pilot, Brent Downs, trying to talk the FBI out of opening fire.
The ordeal on the tarmac lasted less than ten minutes. My father, Brent Downs, was dead within seconds. My mother's quest for justice took four years. Now, forty years later, we are asking for your help in telling a story the FBI does not want told.
A Special Note
My father was the pilot who was killed on board 58 November. I have wanted to complete this project for most of my life. The moment in time when I knew I would complete this project was when I was 17 years old. I opened a box in our attic that contained the clothing my father was wearing when he was killed. Once I saw the blood stains and the bullet holes in his clothing I knew I had to know everything about his death that I could find.
This project is a result of that 17 year old crying in his room holding his father's shirt.
I have spent over 20 years following my father footsteps in the aviation business. I now teach and speak to Universities, Hostage Negotiation and Law Enforcement groups on how to avoid repeating this terrible event.
I have spent the last 6 years researching and gathering more than 11,000 documents from FBI, National Archive records and the Federal Courts. I have been able to obtain the actual audio tapes of my father talking to FBI agents moments before he was killed.
I have discovered facts in the case that have been hidden from the public for over 40 years.
I have recruited some of the best people in documentary film to help me with this project.
Demetria Kalodimos from Nashville owns Genuine Human Productions and is an award winning investigative journalist. She has won the Edward R Murrow Regional Award for Investigative Journalism.
Anne Cates and Alex Hall are the two who shot my trailer and have put their heart and soul into this work.
I have the expertise, the information, and the evidence to correct the official version as fabricated by the FBI more than forty years ago. I am asking for your help in telling the real story of the 58November hijacking, my mother's quest for justice, and my lifelong search for the truth.