Wednesday, October 3, 2007

(CNN) -- An autopsy will be performed Tuesday on a 45-year-old mother of three who died in police custody at Phoenix's Sky Harbor International Airport, the acting director of the medical examiner's office said.


Carol Ann Gotbaum, in an undated family photo, may have accidentally strangled herself while in custody.

The release of the official cause of death could be delayed if investigators need toxicology or other extensive testing reports, because those tests can take up to three weeks, Dave Boyer said.

Police say Carol Ann Gotbaum apparently strangled as she tried to maneuver her way out of the handcuffs that had been secured behind her back.

Gotbaum was arrested Friday at the airport for alleged disorderly conduct, said Phoenix Police Department spokesman Sgt. Andy Hill.

A US Airways spokesman told the New York Daily News that Gotbaum's flight was preparing to leave when she arrived at the gate.

Traveling alone, Gotbaum rebooked on a later flight, but "she became extremely irate, apparently running up and down the gate area," airline spokesman Derek Hanna told the New York Daily News.

Michael Manning, a Phoenix attorney retained by Gotbaum's family, said she had "an emotional reaction" after she was denied permission to board a flight from Phoenix to Tucson, Arizona, where she planned to check herself into an alcohol treatment center. He did not say why the woman was not allowed to board the plane.

Manning said the family had not decided whether to file action against the police.

Airport workers who witnessed the arrest told the Daily News that Gotbaum was screaming, "I'm not a terrorist! I'm a sick mom! I need help!"

A police officer put his knee in Gotbaum's back to restrain her while other arresting police grabbed her flailing arms, one worker told the Daily News.

"I believe she was a little not-there," the worker told the newspaper. "She kept punching. She kept screaming. She kept kicking. She looked really scared, really frightened. I think she was afraid to go to jail."

Airport witnesses told police Friday that Gotbaum was "very loud, she was yelling and screaming and running around the concourse area," Hill said. Video Watch police describe woman's death »

He said police "could not calm her down" and "it was very difficult for them to get her handcuffed."

Arresting officers "did not have to pepper spray her or [use a stun gun] on her or anything else," Hill said.

Gotbaum was handcuffed and taken to a holding cell. She continued "to be vocally and physically disruptive in the holding room," leading officers to further restrain her, Hill said.

Officers used a 16-inch chain, called a shackle, that was attached to the bench she sat on and to the handcuffs.

About 15 minutes later police "found her with the handcuffs up by her neck area," Hill said. Gotbaum was unconscious, and police and firefighters tried to revive her by CPR and other means, Hill said.

"They could not revive her and, tragically, she died."

Hill said many people are "able to get handcuffs around their back and get them up and around."

But Hill said authorities don't know how the handcuffs "got placed on that neck area."

On Saturday, Hill said investigators guessed that "Gotbaum had possibly tried to manipulate the handcuffs from behind her to the front, got tangled up in the process and they ended up around her neck area."

When Gotbaum was found the handcuffs were in front of her body and the shackle was still attached to her handcuffs, officials said. They said the chain was not wrapped around her neck.

"It was pulled against the front of her neck area," Hill said.


Gotbaum lived in New York. She was the mother of three children and the daughter-in-law of longtime New York City Public Advocate Betsy Gotbaum.

Betsy Gotbaum called her daughter-in-law "a wonderful, wonderful person" and a great mother. She said the family was dealing with the situation "the best way we can." E-mail to a friend E-mail to a friend


Anonymous said...

How can family say she was A wonderful person and mother when they admit she was an alcohalic.

Anonymous said...

How can family say she was A wonderful person and mother when they admit she was an alcohalic.

Anonymous said...

What a stupid comment! Make sure to tell your family that when your sick to throw you to the curb!

Anonymous said...

People need to stop acting as though she should bear no responsibility for her actions. I have been unfortunate enough to have to deal with relatives who are addicts. It is the kind of thinking that cuts them slack which perpetuates the problem. If they will ever start to get better (many won't ever), it will only happen when they have to take responsibility. Sadly, many will die first. However, that is their own choice, and whether others accept the hard truth or not, there is nothing the rest of us can do about it but not put up with their crap, and hope for the best. By the way, an alcoholic is NOT a wonderful person & mother. That is not to say she can't have good qualities, but face reality.

Anonymous said...

If you think about it, who stands to come out of this ahead?

Not the police, they will get drug through the muck...

Not the family, they will still have a dead mother/daughter, etc.

That leave the attorney who makes his fee no mater what come of it so he wants it to snowball and be in the news. Its all about his fee and the more muck he can dish out the more he makes. My dog is a better person!

Anonymous said...

Everyone in this society has a problem of some kind.

But, to immediately place the blame on others is typical of America today.

This individual apparently had problems before arriving in Phoenix and to place careers of
others attempting to perform a job in a professional manner is a crime.

If New York is so great (?) per their resident's, why did she not resolve her problems there.

I am sure there is enough 911 monies from the American taxpayer for her treatment in the city !

Anonymous said...

By the police's own admission there were witness that said she was screaming "Im not a terrorist". People don't usually just go around spouting off like that unless they have been mistreated. Obviously the airport mistreated her, which led to this behavior. If the aiport wants to shut her up by having her arrested, they have an obligation to make sure she doesn't get killed in their custody.

Anonymous said...

I feel that something was wrong with Carol psychologically, and they should pay more attention to Her husband saying that she was suicidal. I feel the police had nothing to do with her death. You can see in the video that something was wrong with her emotionally and that is why she was confronted. She wanted a specific attention...I feel though they should have not left her alone...She was sending off sighns of suicidal by saying Im not a terrorist...I say this because the terrorist were suicidal, She was saying she is suicidal but she is not a terrorist....

Anonymous said...

Amazing, as usual, the media - CNN in this case - interview a law enforcement "expert" who finds nothing wrong with the cops' actions.

AS usual, the police cannot spend more than 30 seconds talking to the person. With the 30 seconds up, it's off to jail;

And why was she shackled in the cell???

In many other countries the police would have handled it differently, they would have tried to help the distressed person first.

Anonymous said...

Unfortunately, when I read this about this women's unfortunate death, I remembered a horrible experience I had with jet blue this september. I was on a flight to San Diego, and, the flight attendant was acting really strange towards me - she kept asking me questions, and finally when I told her to please leave me alone - she told me that she would have "customer service" meet me at the gate. When I disembarked from the plane, I was met with a "customer service" person on the jetway (before you even get to the terminal) and she demanded my boarding pass; when I told her I had no issue w/ the flight attendant and could we please talk in the terminal she said that I couldn't leave the jet way and generally made me feel that I was about to be arrested. I just kept saying that I didn't have a problem and kept my voice low. I was really afraid from her behavior and that of the flight attendant that they were "itching" to call security. I think the airports are totally paranoid about passengers now. I wrote to Jet Blue about this, but they did not even apologize for this mess-up. I thank god that I didn't permit myself to get angry...

Anonymous said...

The police had to kill her - it was for her own good . She was loud and argued with police. Police dignity must be upheld. Its a shame that the police have to kill people in order to protect them, but thats the law.

Anonymous said...

Are we dealing with so many lunatics now that everyone is to be treated like a serial killer?

This woman obviously needed help.


HaraZen13 said...

This woman was not a lunatic. She was a human being. A mother... A wife... Sister... Daughter...
She is YOU...
If your heart is NOT filled with sorrow, and rage, and a deep compelling need to weep then YOU are the lunatic!
This human being was murdered! Everyone within the chain of custody of this woman once the state assumed control over her is guilty and should be punishable by law! How did we get so stupid lazy and complacent as to turn a blind eye(I) to another INNOCENT human beings mortality, let alone simple welfare is inexcusable!iF YOU FEEL SHAMED AND ENRAGED BY THIS INHUMANITY THEN ACT! IT IS THE ONLY WAY WE CAN AFFECT CHANGE!

mwelch49z said...

Everyone ought to ride along with the police to get an understanding of what it is they do. It is obvious most of you don't have a clue! This woman had problems. The police didn't know about the problems. They did the best they could in dealing with her. It was a bad situation to begin with that only got worse. It comes down to that old adage; "Bad things happen to good people." In this case the good people were both the police and this woman.

HaraZen13 said...

There is NO EXCUSE for the complacency of ANY public servant… Yes that’s right. The police are CIVIL SERVANTS.

Law Enforcement are the henchman of the aristocracy. Which are you? From the post above it seems you are the latter. After-all your post is a spew of nonsensical domineering rhetoric. I have been on plenty of “ride alongs”… That and I served nearly ten years in the U.S. Army as an Airborne Light Infantryman… There is NO “F”ing excuse for what happened to this poor woman!


Anonymous said...

Since when is yelling, screaming and generally making an ass for your self in public an arrestable offense? She didn't appear to be assaulting anyone. She just wouldn't OBEY. So what. If they had just let her yell and scream and kept her from hurting anyone else she most likely would be home with her children now.

Anonymous said...

You have to love stories like this that bring out the over-the-top anti law enforcement leftists.

The woman was acting unpredictably. The airport police restrained her for both her own protection and the protection of other travelers (including the people she hit with her PDA).

Somehow the police get blamed because this lunatic strangled herself trying to escape? Nobody's fault but her own.

bqmother said...

I'm not sure whether the police used excessive force. What puzzles me is why did they leave her in handcuffs and shackles after they had placed her in a holding cell? Is that usual procedure? Clearly that can be dangerous.

Anonymous said...

It is so sad that in this day and age no one is responsible for their own actions anymore, it is always someone else's fault. If this woman was so distraught and emotionally unstable, is it really up to the police to babysit her? Where was her family that seems so eager to sue now? The police are there for the common good not to babysit a spoiled debutant that was on her way to a swanky rehab.

Anonymous said...

Have you ever watched at the airport how most security stands around laughing and gossiping instead of doing a professional job? Someone should have been watching her due to the way she was chained up. I hope the family sues. With the behavior the woman was displaying they should have known there were some serious mental issues going on. When you chain someone up in that manner it becomes your complete responsibility for their well being.

Anonymous said...

In response to the previous comment - it is exactly because of people like you why this country is in the sad financial shape we find ourselves in.

Frivelous lawsuits seeking to bleed government filed on the behalf of irresponsible citizens. When will the madness end?

Anonymous said...
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