Friday, December 09, 2005

Witnesses in Miami airport shooting differ on whether Alpizar made bomb threat

By John Holland, Brian Haas and Sean Gardiner

Sun-Sentinel Staff Writers

The investigation into Rigoberto Alpizar's final minutes aboard an American Airlines 757 that was to take off for Orlando is focusing, so far, on his wild rage and whether he said he had a bomb.

Federal officials from several agencies said Alpizar, 44, of Maitland, repeatedly made that claim and reached for a backpack, leaving the two air marshals little choice but to open fire on the jetway just outside the plane's doors.

Several of the 113 passengers who arrived in Orlando from Miami, however, said Alpizar may have been delusional and may have run out of the plane only because he feared a bomb was on board.

"I can tell you, he never said a thing in that airplane; he never called out he had a bomb," said passenger Jorge Borelli, an Orlando architect.

The task of sorting out exactly what happened falls mainly to the Miami-Dade Police Department, which is in charge of the homicide investigation. Miami-Dade police Lt. Veronica Ferguson issued a statement saying early indications point to Alpizar running frantically from the airplane "with a backpack strapped to his chest, yelling that he had a bomb."

Detective Juan Del Castillo said people on the plane other than the marshals also heard the bomb threats. Del Castillo said Alpizar's threats and the marshal's orders to him were all in English.

Police would not say whether he made the threats on the airplane, on the jetway or in both locations. The marshals, who were not identified, have been put on paid administrative leave until completion of the investigation.

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