September 12, 2001
Alleged hijacker caught after 30 years
NEW YORK - The counterculture revolutionary who hijacked an Air Canada jet
by gunpoint 30 years ago and vanished when it landed in Cuba left behind
something crucial: his fingerprints on a soda can.
Police used that clue to nab Patrick Dolan Critton this weekend after
having tricked the schoolteacher into touching a photo and reportedly
connecting his fingerprints to those from the soda can.
"He said he had been waiting for that knock on the door," New York police
Inspector Charles Wells said Monday.
Critton, 54, was charged with kidnapping, armed robbery and extortion
stemming from the Dec. 26, 1971, hijacking. During a court appearance
Monday, Critton was ordered held without bail. He faces extradition to
Canada. His lawyer, Cecillia Wang, declined comment.
Critton is suspected of hijacking Air Canada Flight 932 while the plane was
en route from Thunder Bay, Ontario, to Toronto. He is suspected of
brandishing a handgun and a grenade and demanding to be flown to Cuba.
The plane landed in Toronto, and all the passengers were allowed to get
off. The aircraft flew to Havana with six crew members and Critton aboard,
authorities said. Once in Havana, Critton reportedly exited, and the plane
flew back to Toronto.
Shortly after the hijacking, Critton's fingerprints were matched to prints
taken from the soda can he is believed to have touched while on the plane,
said Barry Mawn, assistant director of the FBI's New York office.
Critton had done little to hide his identity, police said. In June, police
in Canada did an Internet search of public databases and found someone with
Critton's name and Social Security number. He had not changed either one,
Canadian officials asked U.S. authorities for help. They learned Critton
had taught elementary school in New York City in 1969; his file containing
his fingerprints was then pulled, Wells said.
Police went to Critton's neighborhood in August, asking residents to look
at a photo of a missing child. When Critton was approached, he touched the
picture. The prints reportedly matched sets from the Board of Education
files, plus the prints on the soda can.
Wells said Critton had become involved 30 years ago with a Black Panther
splinter group called the Republic of New Africa and began robbing banks to
help fund the organization. On July 29, 1971, Critton and four other men
are suspected of robbing a bank in Manhattan, but Critton escaped during a
gunbattle with police, Wells said. Two of the other participants were
captured, one was wounded and the other killed.
The hijacking was in December. Critton is believed to have stayed in Cuba
for three years and then in Tanzania for 20 years. He returned to the U.S.
in 1994 and resumed teaching in New York City.
Critton later took a job with the Westchester Community Opportunity
Program, a nonprofit organization in which he directed the Community School
Initiative for Mount Vernon. He also taught summer school this year at
A.B. Davis Middle School in Westchester County.
When arrested Saturday, Critton said he was surprised no one noticed his
return to the United States. "When he came back in 1994, he thought all
sorts of alarms would go off," Wells said.
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