The father of the Costa Rican-born U.S. citizen shot to death by an air marshal at Miami International Airport says his heart was broken by the slaying of his son "as if he were a criminal."
The president of this Central American nation requested an investigation into the shooting while at the same time expressing understanding for the predicament of security officers in a nation "paranoid" about possible terrorist attacks.
The father of Rigoberto Alpizar, the passenger gunned down by a federal agent Wednesday after running off a plane in Miami and saying he had a bomb, commented in an interview with the Costa Rican daily La Nacion.
Carlos Alpizar, 72, spoke with reporters Wednesday night at his house in Rio Claro de Golfito after learning via television reports about the tragic end of his son's life.
"I'm surprised. I can't believe what happened to my son. I cannot get over the shock I feel over my son being gunned down like a criminal," he said.
"I remember his last words well: 'Father, there is no one like you in this world.' There are no words to describe my son. My heart is broken," Carlos Alpizar said.
Alpizar said his 44-year-old son had lived in the United States for 20 years, become a U.S. citizen and married an American woman, Anne Buechner.
The dead man's brother, also called Carlos Alpizar, said Rigoberto "worked hard in the United States. He loved that country and had (U.S.) flags all over the house."
Rigoberto Alpizar's relatives said he had last been in Costa Rica in July.
President Abel Pacheco said Thursday he would ask the United States for a report on the incident.
"It's an extremely painful event. I consider this young man to have suffered some kind of mental problem because in the United States, with the collective state of paranoia that people are living in, to say that one has a bomb in a backpack or a bag could have effects like the ones we saw," Pacheco told Radio Monumental.
"I imagine that (U.S. authorities) will give us excuses but will also say, look, the man was given an order and he did not obey," Pacheco said.
"We are certainly going to ask for (an explanation), but I already more or less know the response. There are going to say: How can you expect that in a country threatened by terrorists for months, we would tolerate that someone disobey the authorities?" Pacheco said.
Pacheco, a psychiatrist, said Alpizar reportedly suffered from bipolarity and "apparently had stopped taking his medication," leading to what happened.
Searches following Alpizar's slaying showed there was no bomb.
Alpizar had arrived in Miami earlier Wednesday from Ecuador with his wife and had just boarded American Airlines Flight 924, which originated in Colombia and was bound for Orlando.
James E. Bauer, agent in charge of the Federal Air Marshals field office in Miami, said that shortly after boarding the plane, Alpizar indicated he had a bomb in his backpack and began running from the aircraft.
Bauer said Alpizar at first refused to stop when ordered to by air marshals who were aboard the flight, and then turned around and began to approach the agents in a threatening manner, at which point one of the marshals opened fire.
According to Brian Doyle, a spokesman for the Department of Homeland Security, the air marshal shot Alpizar after the passenger refused to lie on the ground as ordered, and instead reached inside his backpack.
Mary Gardner, one of the passengers, told Miami's WTVJ-TV that she had seen Alpizar running in a frenzy toward the plane's exit, followed by a woman shouting, "My husband! My husband!"
Gardner added that she heard the woman saying that her husband was bipolar and had not taken his medication.
Bipolarity is a personality disorder characterized by wild swings between depression and euphoria, and requires regular treatment with prescription drugs.