Friday, December 09, 2005

Witness: Passenger Agitated Before Shooting

Some passengers claim that Alpizar never mentioned the word bomb before being shot

By CURT ANDERSON, AP Writer

The passenger shot to death by air marshals in Miami had been agitated before boarding the plane and was singing "Go Down Moses" as his wife tried to calm him, a fellow passenger said Thursday.

"The wife was telling him, 'Calm down. Let other people get on the plane. It will be all right,'" said Alan Tirpak.

"I thought maybe he's afraid of flying," Tirpak said.

Tirpak took his seat, and Rigoberto Alpizar, 44, and his wife eventually boarded the plane. Then, a few minutes before the plane was to pull away, Alpizar bolted up the aisle and onto the jetway, where two air marshals confronted him.

"He was belligerent. He threatened that he had a bomb in his backpack," said Brian Doyle, spokesman for the U.S. Homeland Security Department. "The officers clearly identified themselves and yelled at him to 'get down, get down.' Instead, he made a move toward the backpack."

Two passengers, however, said they did not hear Alpizar mention a bomb.

Passenger John Mcalhany told The Associated Press on Thursday that Alpizar bumped into him as he ran off the aircraft, and he did not hear him say anything about a bomb.

"The first time I heard the word bomb was when I was interviewed by the FBI," McAlhany said. "They kept asking if I heard him say the B-word. And I said, 'What is the B-word?' And they were like, 'Bomb.' I said no. They said, 'Are you sure?' And I am."

"This was wrong," McAlhany added. "This man should be with his family for Christmas. Now he's dead."

Mary Gardner, another passenger, also said Thursday she not hear Alpizar mention a bomb.

A telephone message left with the Department of Homeland Security seeking comment late Thursday was not immediately returned. A person answering the phone at the Federal Air Marshals service said no one was available for after-hours comments and referred calls to Homeland Security.

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