Man's Erratic Behavior, Threats Led To Fatal Shooting
It was a clean shoot. That's the word from the Florida State
Attorney's Office in Miami, FL on the shooting by federal air
marshals of an American Airlines passenger on the jetway at Miami
International Airport last December 7.
"The shooting death of Mr. [Rigoberto] Alpizar, while tragic, is
legally justified in light of the surrounding circumstances
presented to the air marshals," the report states. "It should be
noted that both air marshals demonstrated remarkable restraint in
dealing with Mr. Alpizar."
As Aero-News reported, 44-year Alpizar of
Maitland, FL was just returning from South America with his wife,
Ann Buechner. The couple were changing planes in Miami, after
returning from a humanitarian mission in Ecuador on behalf of The
Council on Quality and Leadership, followed by a vacation in Peru.
As they settled in their seats at the rear of the plane for the
final leg of the trip home, Alpizar apparently began to panic.
According to witnesses, Alpizar yelled that he had to get off
the plane and ran toward the front, carrying his backpack. Several
passengers -- including his wife, and two air marshals seated in
first class -- testified that they heard him say he had a bomb.
Hearing that, the air marshals drew their weapons and tried to
get him to lie on the floor. He didn't. They yelled in Spanish.
Still, Alpizar refused to comply.
He made it onto the jetway, then turned back toward the airplane
and again said he had a bomb. The backpack was strapped to his
chest. When he again refused to lie down on the floor, when he
continued to move toward the door of the aircraft, both marshalls
fired, hitting Alpizar several times.
Alpizar had a history of bipolar disorder... and his wife said
he hadn't taken his medicine during the long flight to Florida. She
also told investigators his behavior had become increasingly
erratic during the trip -- including leaving his wife and
travelling party in Machu Picchu, Peru and unexpectedly returning
to Cuzco, where his wife had to later retrieve him from.
In the report released by the state attorney's office Tuesday
evening, the shooting was ruled justifiable.
"When Mr. Alpizar ran onto the jetway stating that he had a bomb
and threatened to detonate it, given that he had a backpack
strapped to the front of his chest and failed to comply with
commands to stop and desist, the air marshals had probable cause to
arrest Mr. Alpizar... because they reasonably believed he was
committing, our would commit, multiple felonies involving violence
in their presence," the prosecutors ruled. "As such, they could use
the force they thought necessary to defend themselves and others
from bodily harm while making the arrest or in preventing Mr.
Alpizar from fleeing because he reasonably appeared to pose a
threat of death or serious physical harm to the marshals and
"In addition... the air marshals could stand their ground and
use deadly force because Mr. Alpizar’s actions reasonably
conveyed a threat of imminent death or great bodily harm to
themselves and others and served to prevent said harm or the
imminent commission of a forcible felony as enumerated above."