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Alpizar Family And Neighbors Shocked By Airport Shooting Death
By Dave Reynolds, Inclusion Daily Express
December 9, 2005

MIAMI, FLORIDA--Friends, neighbors and family members of Rigoberto Alpizar on Thursday expressed shock and dismay over his shooting death the previous afternoon.

Two federal air marshals shot Alpizar, 44, Wednesday, as he headed up the jet way from Flight 924 at Miami International Airport. Homeland Security officials said the officers heard Alpizar say he had a bomb as he ran out of the plane and toward the terminal. They fired on him after they identified themselves, told him to stop, and saw him reach toward his backpack.

No bomb or detonator was found.

Federal officials, including White House spokesman Scott McClellan, said the air marshals appeared to have acted appropriately when they fired to kill Alpizar.

The Alpizar family issued a brief statement Thursday, in which they described him as "a loving, gentle and caring husband, uncle, son and friend." Sister-in-law Jeanne Jentsch said he was a native of Costa Rica who was proud that he had become a U.S. citizen several years ago.

The statement said that Alpizar had been married to his wife, Anne Buechner, for 20 years. The couple was returning from missionary work in South America. It also noted that he had bipolar disorder, which used to be known as manic-depression.

Witnesses on the flight, which was loading as Alpizar ran from it, said he appeared agitated before the flight, but that his wife tried to calm him down. When he started running toward the plane's exit, witnesses said, his wife followed yelling that he had a mental illness and had not taken his medication.

An Orange County psychiatrist told the Orlando Sentinel that it could have taken just one day without proper medication for Alpizar fall into a manic state in which he could have felt a sense of invincibility.

A surveillance video from the Quito, Ecuador airport reportedly showed Alpizar acting aggressive and anxious -- including arguing with the ticket agent and grabbing other passengers -- hours before the couple arrived in Miami.

Miami-Dade police said Buechner told them her husband had been diagnosed with bipolar disorder 10 to 12 years ago, and that he had not been taking his medication.

"I can't conceive that the marshals wouldn't be able to overpower an unarmed, single man, especially knowing he had already cleared every security check," Alpizar's brother, Carlos, told The Orlando Sentinel.

"Rigo was a very quiet guy," said Alpizar's former boss Charles Baez. "It's very strange that he would ever do anything like this . . . You never know what people go through, but he always seemed really normal to me."

"He was a nice guy, always smiling, always talkative," said neighbor Louis Gunther. "Everybody is talking about a guy I know nothing about."

"This whole neighborhood is shocked," said neighbor Alex McLeod, 16. "Totally uncharacteristic of the guy."

"Alpizar Family Releases Statement On Airport Shooting" (Associated Press)
"Passengers Describe Moments On Plane Before Shooting" (Associated Press)
"Experts: Actions fit bipolar pattern" (Orlando Sentinel)
"Traveler killed by marshals was agitated before entering plane" (Associated Press)
"Surveillance Video Shows Alpizar Hours Before Shooting" (WTVJ-TV)

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