Monday, December 12, 2005

Flight 924: Another Take On Miami Shooting Last week.

Rigoberto Alpizar, a naturalized American citizen, from Costa Rica, did not even want to get on Flight 924, between Miami and Orlando. Witnesses saw him arguing with his wife, who literally dragged him on the plane. He was returning from a missionary trip in Quito, Ecuador. Rigoberto was a bipolar person, non-compliant with taking medication.

He started yelling, "I have to get out of this place." He carried his backpack, down the aisle, trying to get to the runway. Despite his wife's pleas, that he sick, he was gunned down by an air marshall. The air marshall said he was yelling, he had a bomb. This account is disputed by several passengers. The air marshall's position is that the wife's warnings, could have been a diversion.

I'm writing about this subject from another view. I have met supporters of a Minneapolis based organization, called The Barbara Schneider Foundation. To have your name attached to a foundation, usually you just give $$$. Barbara gave her life. She was an untreated mentally ill person, killed by police. The Barbara Schneider Foundation teaches first responders, how to react to a mentally ill person in crises, so violence is averted. If BSF gave the air marshalls proper training, the shooting could have been averted.

This involved the second Latin person gunned down in the war against terror. The first was Jean Charles de Menezes, a Brazilian, killed by British police four months earlier, after the London subway bombing. Police officials are blocking an independant inquiry, since video footage, negates the police account.

The quick response, shoot first, ask questions later, needs to be more closely examined, or more innocent people will die.


Craig Bardo said...

It is a sad episode. Things broke down on several levels. The man didn't take his medicine (personal responsibility). His wife, knowing he was bi-polar, might have made a different choice.

I imagine that among the things air marshall's are taught is to be decisive, indecision may get people killed. If you are responsible for the safety of a plane full of passengers and some man with this kind of behavior comes bopping down the isle, I presume pushing past flight attendants too, then it is a tough call, but hard to fault the marshall.

It is hard for me to imagine what kind of training may have saved the life of that mentally ill man on a crowded plane in this post 9/11 environment. But it is something to be contemplated.

Reidski said...

The bottom line is that armed marshalls are not the answer. And, anyway, a man with a large backpack (and, please note, don't take it as "fact" that he did actually have a backpack as the first stories cited Jean Charles de Menezes as carrying one, which was later shown to be an outright lie when some of the "facts" of this case had to be changed by the police) running OFF the plane is hardly the stuff of suicide bombers!!
I agree that it is a sad episode, but please don't blame mentally ill people for getting themselves shot and don't blame their relatives.

Alice B. said...

How about just handcuffing the guy? Since when did shooting someone become the response to agitated behavior?

Brik D said...

If the air marshall truly heard "I have a bomb" and the man was running toward an airport full of crowded people, I think he did the right thing. I know that it's arguable as to what the victim said, but it's the marshall's word as to what he heard.

Warning shots or non lethal alternatives would have been a better choice, but how would trying to pin down and handcuff a suicide bomber be effective if he detonated a bomb in the middle of a crowded terminal? Then the cry would have been "Why didn't "they" shoot the crazy guy with the backpack full of explosives?" That argument would have been just as valid. Hindsight is easy.

The man had medication. He knew he was going to be in a public place with extremely sensitive security. He should have taken his pills. You cannot deny the personal responsibility factor. Should he have died because he didn't like his meds? Of coures not, but put yourself in the marshall's shoes. Survival trumps all when you think your life is in danger.

Frank Partisan said...

Because of groups like The Barbara Schneider Foundation, there is some training, that can be done.

I agree marshalls don't need to be armed.

Reidski said...

Denial, denial, denial.

Fact: The guy did not have a bomb!

Fact: He was shot dead by an armed air marshall!

Speculation: He shouted "I have a bomb".

The very idea that people would blame the guy himself for getting shot as a result of not taking medication is preposterous and says much about a society which tries to provide answers about medical and social problems with guns - that's where the blame lies.

Jennifer said...

Why is there not closer observation of human behaviour -- close psychological/behavioural scrutiny could have gone towards preventing this incident. After all, he had to be persuaded/dragged on to the plane. This was a behavioural element which might have been observed by air martials.....

Arielle said...

First, I think that none of us have any idea of what really happened and may not for some time or ever.

Thank you brik b for mentioning the fact that if the guy had actually had a bomb (which is what an air marshall must believe is possible if (and only if) he actually said he had a bomb), and the air marshall hesitated by not shooting the guy, there is a high likelihood that the guy could have and would have still detonated the bomb.

It is a different matter when a person has a gun or a knife, you can shoot a person with a non-fatal shot, to the arm the leg etc. But when a person is threatening to have a bomb, a non-fatal shot to the arm or leg/knee etc could be the difference between 100 people dying and 100 people not dying.

Yes the guy was latin. Yes the guy was bi-polar, and Yes we don't know what really happened.

In tort law a lot of what determines the defendant's fault is foreseeability. Here, if a person is running, yelling, and visibly unbalanced, and is also saying he has a bomb, the probability and foreseeability here that he is in fact just bi-polar and wanted to get off the plane, is really weak.

There are other questions that beg asking:
(1) WHy did the air marshall doubt the security of the airport so much as to think this guy could have a bomb? On that level: how foreseeable/probable was it that a bomb could have gotten by airport security?

(2) What is the actual protocal for air marshalls in situations like this, and does the training take into account people who may be crazy? I can see how what Renegade Eye and some others, said that training for air marshalls and other officers on how to see when a person is really just imbalanced, if that is possible.

But really, this is a freak, shitty, and sad situation. I don't see how anyone can be expected to "expect" that bi-polar passengers will scream they have a bomb to get off a plane. And I do agree, that perhaps the first thing that went wrong, was making that guy get on a plane to begin with when he was obviously a danger to himself.

I think that it makes sense to have air marshalls in airports with guns for reasons other than terrorism. Drug Trafficking is a huge problem, especially in Miami Airport. Anything these days can be turned into a weapon, and is. Pens/Pencils shoved up against your neck, broken pieces of plastic...etc.

I am going on and on..I apologize.

Reidski said...


In fact, when was the last time police shot someone, believing them to have a bomb on them, and..they actually had a bomb???


I can tell you - NEVER!

And you lot arguing for armed marshalls as an answer to someone having a lethat pencil?? Warped minds indeed! You are seriously deranged.

Renegade, I like a good debate, but the reactionary statements and promotion of violence coming out in your visitors' comments is surely a piss-take?

Arielle said...

The guy didn't have a bomb. That is true. The point is how can we expect every armed officer to expect that someone is lying?
Guns suck, and I am no proponent of them in any way. But unfortunately they are often times necessary and airports are not just places that people like you go to for simple vacation plans....there is a hell of a lot that goes on there that we don't know about.

If the guy in Miami was white...perhaps he wouldn't be dead you are saying. I don't know if that is true. I don't think you can say one way or the other if it would have made a difference. None of us were there...

America is too militaristic, I agree on that point. But without more information I don't know how any of us can say what happened was or wasn't justifed at the time it happened...and the only thing we can agree on is that it is very sad and hopefully something will be learned from this experience.

Anonymous said...