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 had arrived from Colombia, officials said.
Homeland Security Department spokesman Brian Doyle said the dead passenger 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 a passenger or suspect, he said. A witness said that the man frantically ran down the aisle of the Boeing 757 and that a woman with him said he was mentally ill.
The passenger, who indicated there was a bomb in the bag, was confronted by air marshals but ran off the aircraft, Doyle said.
The marshals pursued and ordered the passenger to get on the ground, but the man did not comply and was shot when apparently reaching into the bag, Doyle said. Authorities did not immediately say whether any bomb was found.
Passenger Mary Gardner told WTVJ 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 and had not had his medication.
The plane, Flight 924, had arrived from Medellin, Colombia, at 12:16 p.m. and was scheduled to depart two hours later for Orlando, American Airlines spokesman Tim Wagner said.
"I don't know yet if the passenger had been on the plane and was getting off, or was starting to board the aircraft," he said.
The shooting happened shortly after 2 p.m., suggesting passengers may have already been preparing to depart, he said. About 105 passengers scheduled to fly to Orlando, he said.
Martin Gonzalez, spokesman for Colombia's civil aviation agency, said the flight "left normally with no problems."
There were only 32 air marshals at the time of the Sept. 11 attacks. The Bush administration hired thousands more afterward, though the exact number is classified.