Air marshals cleared in fatal Miami shooting

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MIAMI (AP) – Two federal air marshals were justified in fatally shooting an airline passenger at Miami International Airport in December and will not be charged with any crime, authorities have concluded.

The air marshals had no way of knowing that 44-year-old Rigoberto Alpizar suffered from bipolar disorder when they heard him shout the word “bomb” at least once while running through the plane’s cabin, according to a report released Tuesday by the Miami-Dade State Attorney’s Office.

“The shooting death of Mr. Alpizar, while tragic, is legally justified in light of the surrounding circumstances,” the report said. “It should be noted that both air marshals demonstrated remarkable restraint in dealing with Mr. Alpizar.”

Alpizar, a Costa Rican native who became a U.S. citizen, was shot by two undercover air marshals Dec. 7. The report said he uttered bomb threats and appeared to reach into a backpack strapped to his chest. No bomb was found.

The two marshals, neither of whom was identified in the report by name, fired a total of nine rounds from their .357-caliber handguns. The shooting occurred after Alpizar had exited the plane and tried to board again.

Both of the marshals ordered him to “stop” and “get down.” Instead, the report found that Alpizar made repeated additional bomb threats, ignored the air marshals’ commands and headed back to the plane.

Alpizar died on the jetway.

The shooting marked the first time air marshals had fired weapons since their presence aboard airliners was expanded following the Sept. 11, 2001, terror attacks.

A telephone message left Tuesday with Alpizar’s wife, Anne Buechner, was not immediately returned.

Alpizar and Buechner, returning from a trip to Ecuador and Peru, were preparing to fly from Miami to Orlando, where they lived. Buechner told investigators that her husband had exhibited some odd behavior during their trip, but nothing violent.

The report said Alpizar had not been taking enough medication to control his bipolar disorder.


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