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Wednesday, December 07, 2005

BBC NEWS | Americas | US man shot dead on Florida plane

BBC NEWS | Americas | US man shot dead on Florida plane US man shot dead on Florida plane
The flight originated in Medellin
A man who claimed to have a bomb on board an American Airlines plane in Miami was shot dead by a US federal officer, officials say.

Rigoberto Alpizar, a 44-year-old US citizen, was shot after fleeing an air marshal. No device has been found.

Alpizar had arrived in Miami, Florida, from Ecuador and was boarding a flight to Orlando.

It is the first time since the attacks of 11 September 2001 that a US air marshal has shot at a passenger.

The US dramatically increased the number of air marshals on flights after the 2001 attacks.

Local police and federal officers are investigating the incident, but officials say so far there is no hint of any links to terrorism.

However, as a precaution, federal air marshals were deployed in airports across the country.

'Appropriate action'

Miami federal air marshal chief James Bauer told a press conference that the incident happened at about 1410 (1910 GMT).

Aplizar, who was carrying a backpack and travelling with a woman thought to be his wife, had cleared customs and was boarding the Orlando flight, which originated in Medellin, Colombia.

Shots were fired as the team attempted to subdue the subject
Homeland security spokesman

At some point, he said "threatening words", Mr Bauer said.

He was confronted by air marshals on board the flight, refused to comply with their demands and fled the aircraft.

A spokesman for the homeland security department said he then reached into his bag, at which point, consistent with air marshal training, the air marshals "took the appropriate actions".

"Shots were fired as the team attempted to subdue the subject," the spokesman said.

A witness told local television that the man frantically ran down the aisle of the Boeing 757 and that a woman with him said he was mentally ill and had not taken his medication.

Television images showed police and emergency response officers surrounding the plane after the incident.

Later, investigators spread passengers' bags on the tarmac as sniffer dogs checked them for explosives.
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