Thursday, December 08, 2005

The Miami Incident 

I was listening to FNC this morning, in a segment about the incident at Miami International Airport yesterday in which federal air marshals shot dead a man who, according to reports, was acting erratically and claimed to have a bomb in his backpack. Tragically, it turns out that the dead man, one Rigoberto Alpizar, had bipolar disorder and had not taken his medication, but had no bomb.

One of the people FNC had on was evidently a passenger on the plane or waiting in the terminal, who thought that the air marshals should have attempted to subdue Alpizar with less than deadly force. I believe that man was wrong--what he advocated is a luxury that our law enforcement agents no longer have, post 9/11.

Sometimes people need to be reminded of the obvious:

1. If a person explodes a bomb near a lot of people, a lot of people are likely to be killed or seriously injured.

2. A person who claims to be in possession of a bomb on an airplane (or any place, for that matter) is not legally or logically entitled to the benefit of any doubt whatsoever.

3. A person who is acting erratically and who claims to have a bomb on his person may reasonably be considered an imminent threat.

4. A second person yelling at a law enforcement agent claiming to know something about the bomber is at best a distraction and at worst an accomplice.

5. A law enforcement agent has at most a few seconds to decide how best to neutralize a bomber without unduly endangering bystanders. This time window decreases if the bomber attempts to escape or get closer to potential victims.

6. A wounded bomber who is not incapacitated can nonetheless set off his bomb.

In light of all this, it is my judgment that the air marshals acted appropriately in shooting to kill. If Mr. Alpizar had in fact been a bomber, the air marshals would be applauded as heroes for stopping a terrible attack.

I'm truly sorry for Mr. Alpizar and his family, but in a war, innocents are often victims. We are at war with an enemy that has no scruples and no honor, who regards us and our society as less than human, and vigilance is mandatory. The fact that this incident occurred may deter some terrorist from attempting a real attack with a similar scenario. If so, Mr. Alpizar will not have died in vain.

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