In trying to understand and respond to tragic acts, we sometimes mistakenly blame the victim. I am referring to a recent letter to the editor saying that people who are mentally ill need to take their medicine so the police won't have to shoot them. The killing of Rigoberta Alpizar in the Miami airport did not need to happen. The National Alliance on Mental illness has called upon the Federal Air Marshal Service and all other law enforcement agencies to take a close look at its training and education protocols and, if these are currently lacking, to adopt measures to prepare officers to respond effectively to people with severe mental illness.
By all media accounts, Mr. Alpizar had been a good neighbor, excellent employee, and loving family member. He and his wife were returning from a mission trip. We don't know if he had lost his medicine or why he wasn't currently on medication. According to other passengers, he was very agitated as he waited to board the plane and his wife was talking to him to try to soothe him. I can only imagine how stressful it was for both of them as she was trying to get him home safely. Passengers interviewed did not hear him say anything about a bomb. They said he was in a state of panic and was yelling that he had to get off the plane. He had already passed security checkpoints so it was highly improbable that he could have had a bomb in the fanny pack he wore around his waist (not a backpack).