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December 07, 2005
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Man, allegedly mentally ill and claiming to have bomb, shot and killed at Miami airport

By JOHN PAIN
The Associated Press

MIAMI— A passenger who claimed to have a bomb in a carry-on bag was shot and killed by a federal air marshal Wednesday on a jetway to an American Airlines plane that was about to take off for Orlando, officials said. No bomb was found in the bag, a U.S. official said.

Homeland Security Department spokesman Brian Doyle said the dead man was a 44-year-old U.S. citizen. It was the first time since the Sept. 11 attacks that an air marshal had shot at anyone, he said.

According to a witness, the man frantically ran down the aisle of the Boeing 757 while his wife tried to explain that he was mentally ill and had not taken his medication.

The passenger indicated there was a bomb in his bag and was confronted by air marshals but ran off the aircraft, Doyle said. The marshals went after him and ordered him to get down on the ground, but he did not comply and was shot when he apparently reached into the bag, Doyle said.

The plane, Flight 924, had arrived in Miami from Medellin, Colombia, just after noon, and the shooting occurred shortly after 2 p.m. as the plane was about to take off for Orlando with the man and 119 other passengers and crew, American spokesman Tim Wagner said.

After the shooting, investigators spread passengers' bags on the tarmac and let dogs sniff them for explosives, and bomb squad members blew up at least two bags.

A U.S. official, who spoke on condition of anonymity because of the information's sensitivity, said authorities examined the bag and found no explosives.

The concourse where the shooting took place was shut down for a half-hour, but the rest of the airport continued operating, officials said.

Mary Gardner, a passenger aboard the Orlando-bound flight, told WTVJ-TV in Miami that the man ran down the aisle from the rear of the plane. "He was frantic, his arms flailing in the air," she said. She said a woman followed, shouting, "My husband! My husband!"

Gardner said she heard the woman say her husband was bipolar a mental illness also known as manic-depression and had not had his medication.

There were only 32 air marshals at the time of the Sept. 11 attacks. The Bush administration hired thousands more afterward, but the exact number is classified.

Associated Press writers Mark Sherman and Lara Jakes Jordan in Washington contributed to this report.

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