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Miami Shooting Victim Rigoberto Alpizar

MELISSA BLOCK, host:

The White House says it appears air marshals acted properly when they shot and killed a man at Miami International Airport yesterday. The man was Rigoberto Alpizar. He was on an American Airlines jet when he apparently claimed he had a bomb in his backpack and ran off the plane. He was shot on the jetway that connected the plane to the airport terminal after he appeared to reach into his bag. White House spokesman Scott McClellan says the marshals' actions were consistent with their training. In a few minutes we'll talk with a man who used to train air marshals.

MICHELE NORRIS, host:

First, we're going to tell you what's known about the man who was killed. Rigoberto Alpizar was born in Costa Rica but spent the past two decades in the US. He was an American citizen. He lived in Maitland, Florida, near Orlando, and worked at a Home Depot in the paint department. He and his wife of 18 years lived in a quiet neighborhood on a quiet street. Today Alpizar's sister-in-law made this statement.

Ms. JEANNE JENTSCH (Alpizar's Sister-In-Law): Rigo Alpizar was a loving, gentle and caring husband, uncle, brother, son and friend. He was born in Costa Rica and became a proud American citizen several years ago. He will be sorely missed by all who knew him.

NORRIS: That was Jeanne Jentsch, Rigoberto Alpizar's sister-in-law.

Willoughby Mariano is a reporter with the Orlando Sentinel. She spent most of last night talking to Alpizar's neighbors. And she says they were both shocked and saddened by the news.

Ms. WILLOUGHBY MARIANO (Orlando Sentinel): It was shocking to them. They had no idea how something like this could happen. And each time a little bit of news would trickle out, they had trouble figuring out what to make of this. When the man who was taking care of his house--his name is Louis Gunther, who lives across the street--said the man on TV--that was portrayed on TV was nothing like the man he saw every day.

NORRIS: What did they say about the man they saw every day?

Ms. MARIANO: Oh, just that he was an ordinary, nice, laid-back gentleman. No one had any problems with him. He wasn't a difficult person. He never displayed erratic behavior--simply, you know, a good, regular guy.

NORRIS: There were passengers on the plane who told reporters that Mr. Alpizar's wife yelled at the marshals and said that he was sick, that he hadn't taken his medication and that he had bipolar disorder. Was this news to the neighbors there?

Ms. MARIANO: Yes, absolutely, absolutely. And it might even have been news to his family. His in-laws seemed a bit surprised that that was a factor here. Of course, you know, a mental illness is a very private thing, so that isn't something that necessarily a neighbor, much less--even an in-law, would know.

NORRIS: One last question before we let you go, Willoughby. What was the scene in the neighborhood like last night as people were hearing this news?

Ms. MARIANO: Well, a lot of the neighbors had come out of their house and just stood at the end of their driveways to stare. Over the course of maybe 10 minutes, what was a sleepy Florida neighborhood, a suburban neighborhood with these tall, towering oaks, became a media circus, and there were floodlights pointed at the house. People couldn't believe that so much national attention all of a sudden was turned on a little ranch house just down the street from them. They could not believe it.

NORRIS: Willoughby Mariano, thanks so much for talking to us.

Ms. MARIANO: Thank you.

NORRIS: Willoughby Mariano is a reporter with the Orlando Sentinel. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.

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