Investigating the Fate of Christmas ‘Shoe Bomber’ Richard Reid: What Happened Next?

An al Qaeda follower sneaked boarded American Airlines Flight 63 from Paris to Miami a few months after the terrorist attacks of September 11, 2001, with explosives packed into his shoes. His failed effort to explode spared the lives of over 200 people, but it also sentenced him to life in jail.

The 10 ounces of improvised explosives in his shoes, according to the FBI, were sufficient to blow a hole in the plane’s side and kill every passenger.

“Shoe Bomber” Richard Reid, a 50-year-old British national, is incarcerated for life at the U.S. Penitentiary in Florence, Colorado. Reid trained with the terrorist organizations in Pakistan and Afghanistan.

Investigating the Fate of Christmas 'Shoe Bomber' Richard Reid What Happened Next (1)

The Transportation Security Administration enforced a shoe-exclusion policy at airport checkpoints in 2006 as a result of “intelligence pointing to a continuing threat.”

FBI Director Christopher Wray cautioned Congress in October that “terror threats have elevated” during ongoing protests and debate about Israel’s battle with Hamas. He also stated that future lone wolf attacks remain a worry.

“The reality is that the terrorism threat has been elevated throughout 2023, but the ongoing war in the Middle East has raised the threat of an attack against Americans in the United States to a whole other level,” added Wray.

Reid acknowledged the 2001 plot and his loyalty to Osama bin Laden, the leader of al Qaeda at the time, in court. Reid also went by the aliases Abdul-Raheem and Abu Ibrahim Abdul Raheem.

Reid was restrained by other passengers on December 22, 2001, when he reached down to attempt lighting a fuse in his shoes. The pilot made an emergency landing in Boston and was taken into custody.

Attorney General John Ashcroft, at the time, gave the passengers and crew credit for foiling the attempt.

Reid lighted the match, and a flight attendant questioned him. Other passengers leaped to assist, securing his arms and legs and fastening him with belts and other items that were at hand. A medical professional present numbed the terrorist.

Investigating the Fate of Christmas 'Shoe Bomber' Richard Reid What Happened Next (2)

At a press conference to announce Reid’s indictment on January 16, 2002, Ashcroft stated, “For a very few minutes at least, every passenger on Flight 63 was vigilant and alert, every passenger an air marshal.” “And as a result, 197 people on board that flight made it to the ground safely.”

Before entering a guilty plea on October 4, 2002, Reid boasted to the court that he didn’t know about the American criminal justice system, smiled at the prosecution, and laughed. As to the court documents, he was given numerous life sentences in addition to an additional 110 years of imprisonment without the chance of parole.

Before being sentenced, he declared, “I’m an enemy of your country, and I don’t care.” Nevertheless, he attempted an appeal, and in 2021 he sent a letter to a federal court clerk asking if a sentence reduction would be possible.

It was unsuccessful since he had made the request more than 20 years after the applicable statute of limitations. The Telegraph and NBC News published excerpts of criminologist Kim Mehlman-Orozco’s contact with Reid in 2015.

He expressed no regret for the victims of the 2015 terrorist attack that killed 12 people at the French satirical weekly Charlie Hebdo but rather expressed “some tactical regrets” over his inability to set off the bomb in a letter to her from prison.

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