It happened after the man claimed he had a bomb in his carry-on luggage. Barely visible, lying just inside the door of a jetway, was the lifeless body of 44-year-old Rigoberto Alpizar, shot dead by federal marshals earlier Wednesday at Miami International Airport.
Rick Thomas with the Transportation Security Administration says, "He flew in from Quito and cleared customs and was headed to Orlando."
The U.S. citizen from Maitland, Florida had been a passenger on board American Airlines flight 924 when he was confronted.
James Bauer, U.S. Marshal, says, "He uttered threatening words, which included he had a bomb."
According to an eyewitness, Alipizar ran down the aisle flailing his arms with his wife not far behind, explaining his behavior as mental illness. Authorities say he then ran from the airplane parked at the gate. After being ordered by marshals to stop, Alpizar obeyed but then made a move for his bag.
Thousands of air marshals were hired to a program that before 9/11 had about 33 marshals. The exact number in their ranks now is classified, and which planes they get on is closely guarded. This marks the first time a federal air marshal has ever had to fire his weapon.
Jim McAtee, a business traveler, says, "I'm very comfortable with the fact that they may be there."
Marroquin Ana, another business traveler, adds, "I'm traveling for business, but when you're traveling with your kids for family reasons for a visit, just tourism, it gives you a lot of a sense of security."
After the incident Alpizar's backpack was found to contain nothing dangerous. Bags related to Alpizar taken from the Boeing 757's cargo hold were detonated by the bomb squad. No explosives of any kind were discovered.
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