A shooting in Miami
Today federal air marshals shot a "hispanic" man on the jetway as he was leaving an airplane. The man, Rigoberto Alpizar, was shot because after being told to freeze or something to that effect, he reached into a bag. According to the NY Times:
Mr. Bauer said the air marshals then challenged him, but the man fled the plane. When he refused to follow their instructions and made what they considered a threatening move, he was shot, Mr. Bauer said.
"His actions caused them to fire shots, and in fact he is deceased," Mr. Bauer said.
"His actions caused them to fire shots." If ever there was a wrong statement this is it. In a country where the dominant political party consists of people calling for "Personal responsibility" and "self control" it is hypocritcaly to say that mr Alpizar "caused" the air marshals to do anything. Lest the reader think I'm being overly "liberal" in my accessment I offer evidence 1: The Brazilian man shot by London Police for "running towards a train." It was only after killing the man did the police "find out" that the man was in fact an electrician and was running to the train as not to be late for work. The London police even attempted to lie about the situation by saying he was making threatening moves. These stories were later shown to be incorrect. But it was too late, the man was dead.
This underscores the importance of the presumption of innocence. The police cannot execute suspects because suspects have not done anything. But in post 9-11 America (and London) a suspect can have all legal protections removed. I have been consistent in my position that police should only use deadly force (that would be "shoot to kill") only if their lives are in immediate danger. Not that they think it may be, or that the "suspect" might do x,y or z but the gun must be produced, in fact I would say the weapon should be fired.
In this particular case the Marshal said he heard the man say something about having a bomb. Hmmmm. now lets think about this. The man has a bomb on a plane and announces it to everyone. Not the MO of any recent terrorists but maybe he does have it. He does not produce the bomb or offer any proof of having any such device. Furthermore he is exiting the plane. Thus the plane is clearly not the target even if he had a bomb. The man is shot on the jetway between the plane and the terminal. If anything at this point he is not a danger to anyone on the plane nor is he a danger to anyone in the terminal as he is in a controled space between the plane and the terminal. Now after apparently being told to lay down. he does not. OK. Air marshals are the best sharp shooters in American security. Why not shot the man on the leg or the arm? Surely they can do so as they are trained to take precision shots. If getting shot in the leg is anything like a charlie horse then he's guaranteed to go down. Problem solved. The air marshals had choices and chose to murder an innocent man who apparently needed to take his medicine for Bi-Polar disorder. Let me offer what probably happened:
The man attempted to go to the restroom to take his meds and was unable to do so because the steward or stewardess would not let him go before take off (perhaps for security reasons). The man being on the manic side of Bi-polar disease went off on the stewardess (and I've seen Bi-Polar people go off and takes very little when their off meds). He probably says something like "you think I have a bomb!" and then goes to exit the plane so that he could use the bathroom in the terminal. He hears the marshals whome he may or may not have looked at (I don't see any reports that he actually faced the marshalls) yelling at him. He thinks that the marshals are more "airplane people" trying to piss him off some more and ignores them on the way to the bathroom to take his meds. He gets shot. He dies.
So let's see where this goes. In my book this was a homicide on the level of Diallo. Police professionals with a monopoly on deadly force, failed to act on the assumption of innocence and murdered a person. 9-11 should not be an excuse for improperly handle a situation. It is the air marshals job to put thier life on the line to protect the innocent. It was there job to take the risk that the man was not a threat to not kill him. If they can't do that then they are in the wrong line of work.