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"Honor the threat"

One of the greatest pieces of wisdom I have have ever learned was "honor the threat." If someone or something threatens you, treat that threat as very real and very imminent unless and until proven ineffective.

Rigoberto Alpizar, who met his untimely end on a jetway in Miami yesterday, made a threat. It was a plausible threat -- he didn't threaten tofire a bazooka at the plane, or to smash the plane with his bare hands -- and was treated as such. And while it may be a sad fact that he was mentally ill, and didn't in fact have a bomb, the air marshal who shot him did exactly the right thing. Mr. Alpizar's death is entirely his own responsibility. If he had merely taken his medication, he'd most likely be alive today, and a lot of people would be trying to find something else to write about.

No, skipping one's meds is not a capital offense in and of itself. But the things he did led a lot of people to reasonably conclude that he did pose a plausible threat -- and one of them was an air marshal with a gun.


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Comments (32)

"Stupidity cannot be cur... (Below threshold)
jd watson:

"Stupidity cannot be cured with money, or through education, or by legislation. Stupidity is not a sin, the victim can't help being stupid. But stupidity is the only universal capital crime; the sentence is death, there is no appeal, and execution is carried out automatically and without pity." - Robert A. Heinlein

It's sad and unfortunate, b... (Below threshold)

It's sad and unfortunate, but yes, the Air Marshall reacted the way that he had to react. It's the same way that whoever is there will have to react *next time*.

I don’t think the responsib... (Below threshold)

I don’t think the responsibility is entirely his own.

Terrorists who actually would commit these acts, and those who have carried them out in the past, share a large part of the responsibility.

Many people raised in a dem... (Below threshold)

Many people raised in a democratic (read: republican, if you want to be accurate and true to the historical categories, but most people aren't) society find the concept of "shoot first, ask questions later" contrary to their established notions of "protecting the rights of the innocent." They fail to notice that in this case, the air marshal did precisely that. He protected the rights of the innocent passengers, the "greater innocence" as it were, protecting hundreds at the cost of a single human life.

No, failing to take your meds is not a crime. However, justice often has to choose between two people with different brands and degrees of "innocence." The razor must cut in favor of the one who had the least opportunity to avoid the harm. As between the innocent sitting on the plane and the "innocent" who didn't take his medication (but could have) and is now threatening a bomb (existent or not), justice must protect the one who could not have done anything more to avoid the harm.

The Palestinians have been ... (Below threshold)

The Palestinians have been using the retarded and mentally ill for transporting explosives and bullets for years. You don't see the Israelis chuckling to themselves and saying "Well, you're just a retard... go ahead, little fool and catch your bus. Hurry!" do you?

Shoot first, let the Medical Examiner ask questions later.

I feel safer knowing that 4... (Below threshold)

I feel safer knowing that 4000 Federal Marshals ride the planes prepared to protect the passengers. ABC World News Tonight had a clip on the high level of training they undergo, including hand-to-hand in passenger cabins.

An interesting contrast, as pointed out by Done With Mirrors, is this article about the Israelis agonizing about not shooting the suicide bomber sooner.


Absolutely...just like Sadd... (Below threshold)

Absolutely...just like Saddam Hussein.

I couldn't agree more. It's... (Below threshold)

I couldn't agree more. It's interesting though, that the people who are so quick to condemn this as excessive force, would also be the first ones to criticize him for not doing enough, if there HAD been a bomb.
Damned if you do....

You bunch of stupid rightwi... (Below threshold)

You bunch of stupid rightwingg koolaid drinkers! Can't you see that this is exactly why we needto get the "killer marshalls" off of our flights? Their 2 dangerous! Now some poor mentallly ill main is ded and i thought we couldn't ecxecute the metally ill! Bushie's policies of these "killer marhsalls" on every plane have killed more innocents than all the hijackers ever did (and they were from saudi araba, NOT IRAQ!)
With that out of the way maybe it will act as garlic to the lefty "defend the bomb threat perpetrator" crowd and keep them from the thread. I sort of doubt it though, I left out any conspiracy theories about this being a Bush plot to require tougher airline security and probably didn't spell enough things wrong. My real view? Talk about the worst possible manifestation of mental illness at the worst possible time...and, incidentally, how long before the comparisons to the British shooting come out? Or have they already?

The "honor the threat" noti... (Below threshold)

The "honor the threat" notion reminds me of a memory of the first time I stepped onto a rifle range in Scout camp when I was 11. The Range Officer, as part of his safety instructions commented:

"Never point the barrel of the rifle at something you don't wish to shoot, even when carrying it to the line. For example, if I ever see that you are pointing your rifle at me, I will assume that you desire to shoot me... and I will take appropriate actions."

It was an effective lesson that I remember.

Falze: get back on your med... (Below threshold)

Falze: get back on your meds before I'm forced to shoot your ass.

Or don't. I'm easy either way.

Terrorists who actually ... (Below threshold)

Terrorists who actually would commit these acts, and those who have carried them out in the past, share a large part of the responsibility.

Those are, unfortunately, the conditions that prevail -- but that being the case, Heinlein's Law applies.

This "lefty" happens to agr... (Below threshold)

This "lefty" happens to agree with the sentiments expressed in this post. Unfortunately, the main victim in this is the air marshal who had to shoot. You can bet that he will second-guess himself more than all the ACLUers combined.

I've known several people d... (Below threshold)

I've known several people diagnosed as bi-polar and none of them were/are dumb enough to pull a stunt like this guy did meds or no meds, so I'm not so sure that the connection between his mental illness and his actions yesterday is as strong as many see willing to accept. In trying to explain the incomprehensible, mental illness is convenient but not necessarily the cause.

Come to think of it, stupidity isn't an adequate explanation, either. He choose to behave in a threatening way, so he was atleast wicked if not worse.

Oh FTLOG, I'll disagree. T... (Below threshold)

Oh FTLOG, I'll disagree. The ACLU types will stick with their first guess, likely that he was an evil armed man that shot a poor innocent minority.
Even if he isn't really poor or a minority ;)

Excerpt from my blog post o... (Below threshold)

Excerpt from my blog post on this incident:

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.

OK, I know there's nothing ... (Below threshold)

OK, I know there's nothing you guys love better than a straw man, but I'm just curious where you're finding all these "lefties" who are saying the stupid bullshit you're attributing to them. I see this all the time: "Oh, here's the nonsense the lefties are going to spout" (like Falze's retarded comment) followed by your ridicule of what the lefties said, totally ignoring the fact that you're commenting on your own dreamed up remarks. I just checked Kos and Democratic Underground, two of your favorite whipping boys, and haven't seen anything remotely like what was written here.

The only dissenting voices I hear are based on the fact that the initial stories of the London underground shooting seemed just as black and white (I remember the comments here cheering on the police) but it turned out not to be such a neat package, after all. We certainly shouldn't condemn the air marshals, but there's nothing wrong with making sure the story's everything it's cracked up to be.

The "threat" is alleged onl... (Below threshold)

The "threat" is alleged only, time will prove otherwise. Eyewitnesses have stated there was a man having a panic attack, but a bomb was never mentioned except after the fact by Federal agents. One witness had a gun put to his head by an agent for talking on a cell phone. Yet the all-American pukes say right off, yeah, waste the guy. Disgusting. Even more disgusting if you have any experience in real law enforcement.

Eyewitnesses have stated... (Below threshold)

Eyewitnesses have stated there was a man having a panic attack, but a bomb was never mentioned except after the fact by Federal agents. One witness had a gun put to his head by an agent for talking on a cell phone.

Of course you have links to these reports so we can read them for ourselves, right?

Chris, I just went... (Below threshold)


I just went to Du, spent about 15 seconds looking, and found this:


Are you just unfamiliar with the internet, or are you a liar?

Chris, It took me ... (Below threshold)


It took me 2 minutes to find this.

I make no claims to the rep... (Below threshold)

I make no claims to the report's credibility, but here you go McGehee:

Eyewitness: "I Never Heard the Word 'Bomb'"

Check out the bit about the "chance to break someone's neck". I wonder about this guy.

mantis, thanks for that lin... (Below threshold)

mantis, thanks for that link. This was the best piece of humor(?) I've had today...

Witness: "I wanted to make sure if anything was coming toward me and they were killing passengers I would have a chance to break somebody's neck...."

Reporter introducing above quote: "McAlhany says he tried to see what was happening just in case he needed to take evasive action."

Wonder whose notion of "evasive action" consists of waiting for a chance to "break somebody's neck?"

Wow, dumb as posts and comp... (Below threshold)

Wow, dumb as posts and completely lacking in sense of humor. Good times at the Democratic Party.

"the air marshal who sho... (Below threshold)
Steve Crickmore:

"the air marshal who shot him did exactly the right thing. Mr. Alpizar's death is entirely his own responsibility.". This rather uncompromising statement of our host Jay Tea recalls almost the exact same statement of Jay's, immediately following the death of the Brazilian in London."His death was his responsibility entirely. He did everything that a bomber would do, and deliberately chose not to do the things that would have allowed the police to determine he was not a threat before they shot him... He (the police officier)did exactly the right thing".

Obviously, the subsequent facts of what happened in London, have made no impression on Jay even though they bore almost no relation to what the Met said initially...Jay again this time just as breathlessly, as before, as if he was in their pr department, accepts the words of the Air Marshalls as gospel without equivocation. As for myself, if I have learned anything in life , it is that when authorities, particularly public authorities, are pleading a case for their own actions that are controversial, I have learned to take their words, with some scepticism, until the full story is out.

Steve, you kind of selectiv... (Below threshold)
Jay Tea:

Steve, you kind of selectively chose your words of mine to quote. You might have also tossed in this piece, where I roundly ripped the British police for their lying about the De Menezes shooting.

So yeah, Steve, I had that incident in mind. More so than you, I'd wager -- I also remembered him by name. But the initial witness accounts (not just the government agents) mostly back up the "official" story. The sole exception I've seen was one guy whose account was so unusual, Time gave him the biggest play. So until shown otherwise, I'm going to take it as reported.

You have evidence to the contrary, let's hear it.


I heard the witness that sa... (Below threshold)

I heard the witness that says he never heard the word bomb on Dom Giordano last night.
He did not sound at all with it. At one point he claimed to have talked to every person on the plain. When a caller challenged that assertion, he backed it down to a bunch of people in coach.
He was also doing alot of projection, about who the man (who was shot) was and what kind of person he was. He admitted to having no prior knowledge of the man, but he was insisting to the host of the radio show that the victim was a wonderful husband, good person and great American, minding his own business. In short, the witness sounds less than credible. After some poking, he also admitted that he only saw some of what happened on the plane, but was not close enough to hear everything the victim or the AM had said. And he saw and heard NOTHING out on the walkway/skyway.
For now, I will side with the AM, until I hear credible evidence that he was in the wrong. But I am open to hear that evidence.
The construction worker from Florida making the no bomb, shotgun to the head and karate chop to his neck (his words and terms) claims, IMO, is not very credible.
There were alot of people on the plane, between crew and passengers. I am waiting to hear what they have to say.

Civilization rightly protec... (Below threshold)

Civilization rightly protects defective individuals, often to the detriment of the gene pool. The caveman approach to mental illness was much more simple. If you do irrational shit, the cave bear/saber tooth eats you: problem solved.

In a post 9-11 world, in situations like this Jay Tea is exactly correct; you have to honor the threat. Irrational behavior WILL get you killed. So it pays to stay on your meds.

One of the greatest pieces ... (Below threshold)

One of the greatest pieces of wisdom I have have ever learned was "honor the threat."

Wow. I’ve never been accused of imparting great pieces of wisdom before! Seriously though, I am impressed that a drive by comment I left on your site last summer impacted your thinking that much :)

But you are 100% correct that it applies to this situation. I feel particularly bad for the wife witnessing her husband killed this way, but the FAM had no choice. I’ve also seen it floated in the ‘sphere that the guy was just agitated, freaking out, when the flight attendant tried to block him, make him go back, he may have said something like “it’s NOT like I have a bomb…”. It will amplify the tragedy if that turns out to be the case, but I would still support the FAM.

I think it’s also an important lesson for the rest of us – in today’s climate you simply don’t use the B word in or around an airplane or airport. You immediately make yourself a threat – and some cop or FAM may have only seconds to evaluate that threat.

Jay, in response to your co... (Below threshold)
Steve Crickmore:

Jay, in response to your comment up the thread No, I hadn't read the subsequent piece that you wrote on the De Menezes shooting..and your unequivocal condemnation of the British police for lying. If I had, I would certainly have mollified any criticism of your initial defense of the police. I am now living in Brazil so I have been following, along with many Brazilians the De Menezes case. The Equadorean Alpizarb bore an uncanny lookalike physical resemblence to DeMenezes..The British police at the time said they were suspicious of De Menezes" Monglolian-type "eyes"..Lets hope the Air Marshalls in Miami were fully professional and 'honoring the threat' alone you spoke of, rather than overreacting in part to Alpizarb's personal unruly and agressive behavior on the plane.

mantis:You mean th... (Below threshold)


You mean this paragraph (article link), I assume:

"McAlhany [a passenger who is identified as being "a construction worker"] says he tried to see what was happening just in case he needed to take evasive action. 'I wanted to make sure if anything was coming toward me and they were killing passengers I would have a chance to break somebody's neck,' he says. 'I was looking through the seats because I wanted to see what was coming.'"

The guy says he'd have resorted to lethal force if/when he observed other passengers being killed. I think many of us would, also, at least TRY to do so if ever we were to witness such acts. I know the one thing that bothered me and very much as to the flights involved in the events of 09/11 was why the passengers "did what they were told" so to speak and why the much larger group of passengers did not overpower the smaller group of terrorists on board.

I realize that those on Flight 93 did so and we'll never know what occured on the others but from what was being said by the few who managed communications with others offboard in the approach toward doom, they were being "good passengers" and were simply puzzled by the terrorists (some killed in flight, terribly), some outraged but most all of them compliant.

After 09/11, and air flight marshalls or no (they're not easily identified) on our present day flights, most of us would, indeed, attempt to confront terrorist/s on board any flight and do whatever was necessary to get them either under control or ineffective, even if it meant "breaking someone's neck."

The construction guy isn't the problem in that situation. Nor is his willingness to assist if/when he's faced with life threatening circumstances in his presence.

And, I apply the same level... (Below threshold)

And, I apply the same level of acceptable response to any FAM and/or military and/or law enforcement. These are situations, as are the times we now find ourselves in, where you can't devote a great deal of time to deliberate all the possibilities and have to rely on training and what you know MOST to be so and then act accordingly.

I've often thought about the passengers on Flight 93, especially, and had they had maybe just a few more minutes, they might of lived and saved the flight entirely. But, they didn't. They did have time before rushing the cockpit, and I just wish they'd have acted sooner rather than later. At least, in their honor and to their credit, they acted.

FAM are trained to act in these situations, as are others who are provided with the means and responsibilities of using lethal force to protect the public. Sometimes they make errors, sometimes a bad personality is involved but most of them are reliable, heroic people who act in the best possible intentions under the worst possible stress.

Don't want to get shot by an FAM on a plane? Don't threaten them and/or others. If someone's mentally ill, well, who who presents the possibility of hijacking a plane and taking the lives of others is not?

I don't see a mental illness or illnesses as an excuse to qualify for permission to act with threat of harm. You have to deal with the threat of harm, the harm itself, and then let others figure out the complexities of someone's state of mind and wellness thereof.






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