MIAMI – Two federal air marshals were justified in using deadly force in the fatal December shooting of an airline passenger originally from Costa Rica at Miami International Airport and will not be charged with any crime, state prosecutors concluded Tuesday.
A 46-page report released by State Attorney Katherine Fernandez Rundle found that the two air marshals had no way of knowing that the passenger, 44-year-old Rigoberto Alpizar, suffered from bipolar disorder when they heard him use the word "bomb" at least once while running through the plane's cabin.
"The shooting death of Mr. Alpizar, while tragic, is legally justified in light of the surrounding circumstances presented to the air marshals," 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 and lived in the Orlando suburb of Maitland, was shot by two covert federal air marshals Dec. 7 after he claimed to have a bomb and appeared to reach into a backpack strapped to his chest. No bomb was found.
Alpizar and his wife, returning from a trip to Ecuador, were traveling from Miami to Orlando aboard American Airlines Flight 924 when the shooting occurred.
The report found that Alpizar did not take enough of the drug Lithium to control his bipolar disorder. After he ran through the aircraft's cabin, he was confronted by both air marshals with their service weapons drawn. Both ordered him, in Spanish and English, to "stop" and "get down."
Instead, the report found that Alpizar made repeated bomb threats, ignored the air marshals' commands and headed back toward the plane with his hands on his backpack. Several passengers heard the bomb threats, as well as Alpizar's wife, the report said.