Other campus: Bipolar ‘bomber’ shot dead

By The Pitt News

(U-WIRE) PITTSBURGH – An incident in Florida that has led to the death of a man suffering from bipolar disorder has raised some questions regarding the training of air marshals and when they should or should not use non-lethal force.

Also, it should be noted that this was the first time air marshals have shot someone since the events of Sept. 11, 2001, mandated that they be armed.

After forgetting to take his medicine, Rigoberto Alpizar, 44, experienced a manic episode on an American Airlines flight that was headed to Orlando. A New York Times article stated that shortly after, Alpizar “uttered threatening words that included a sentence to the effect that he had a bomb.”

After two air marshals approached him about the alleged bomb threat, Alpizar started running on to the jetway. It was then that his wife, Anne Buechner, proceeded after him, informing the air marshals about his condition. It was when Alpizar went into his carry-on luggage that he was shot dead.

James Bauer, the special agent who oversees the air marshals in question, commented at a news conference that the air marshals were simply following protocol. He also went on to mention that other air marshals were dispatched in other areas of the country just in case it wasn’t an isolated event, reported The New York Times.

Undoubtedly, the air marshals had a tough decision to make. There were 113 passengers aboard a plane that appeared to be seriously threatened.

But many things remain unclear about the incident. Reports have not yet been released concerning how far away the air marshals were from Alpizar, if it was possible that the air marshals could have administered some form of non-lethal force to subdue this mentally ill passenger and if in fact they knew Alpizar had bipolar disorder.

It remains to be seen whether the air marshals in question were even adequately trained for situations that would require them to use non-lethal force or scenarios involving the mentally ill.

Another aspect to consider is Alpizar, an American citizen of Hispanic descent, can be identified as a brown person. It’s hard to tell whether the air marshals jumped to conclusions because of this fact.

Since the investigation is pending, it’s unfair to imply that the air marshals jumped the gun, given that this happened around noon yesterday. Still, a thorough investigation must be held.

Considering all the facts presently available, it’s fair to say that the air marshals did what they were hired to do. They followed protocol. For the future, if there is not a provision in their protocol to deal with those who are mentally ill, it must be added and stated clearly. But, the problem still exists in telling the difference between the mentally ill and those who are just faking it.

Be that as it may, after the dogs had sniffed and a bomb squad had inspected his bags, they found nothing. And, tragically, their “bomber” was simply a passenger who fell out of his routine and paid for it with his life.

Staff Editorial