Thursday, December 08, 2005

Regrettable But Justifiable Shooting

My heart goes out to the family and friends of Rigoberto Alpizar, who was shot and killed in an unfortunate incident at Miami Airport yesterday. My heart also goes out to the federal air marshals who shot Alpizar, who turned out not to be a bomber after all. I can only imagine how having killed an innocent man will weigh on their hearts.

If the facts are as reported, the air marshals' actions were entirely justified. When a boarded passenger leaps out of his seat, charges up the aisle, claims to have a bomb in his backpack, disobeys commands from air marshals to "get down", and then starts reaching for his backpack, I don't see that the marshals had any choice. They don't have the luxury of waiting for a situation to unfold and gathering information ex post facto. They must react to such a situation immediately and make snap decisions, based on their training. Shame on those who are second-guessing the air marshals' decision based on hindsight. Given what they could have known (and what they could not have known) in the instant, and given what could have happened had there really been a bomb, they did the right thing. The incident is unfortunate and regrettable. But as an air traveler, I for one am reassured to see evidence of an effective air marshal program. We'd all heard that they were around, but never really knew for sure. Now we know. And so do the real terrorists.

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