Woman dies in security custody at airport

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69 Responses to “Woman dies in security custody at airport”

  1. Xeni Jardin says:

    @all, let’s do remember the the first two words of the headline are “woman dies,” and keep the debate adult.

  2. phasor3000 says:

    Some additional information has been released:

    A 45-year-old Manhattan woman who died in police custody at the airport in Phoenix on Friday was on her way to Tucson to enter an inpatient alcohol rehabilitation program, her family’s lawyer said today.

    http://cityroom.blogs.nytimes.com/2007/10/01/a-new-yorkers-puzzling-death-in-phoenix/index.html?hp

  3. phasor3000 says:

    I’m still waiting for someone to suggest what the cops should have done if she refused to leave the gate area and continued shouting angrily and running around. If these cops were so brutal, why didn’t they spray or taser her?

  4. osansmitty says:

    What more can we blame on TSA!!! This had absolutely nothing to do with TSA. TSA is not a policing agency and do not carry handcuffs, have arresting powers or have confinement facilities. When will the irrational press stop and report real facts and not try to blow up a story. Here’s a headline to print tomorrow; “TSA permits Bin Laden to pass through security checkpoint on way to Ramadan” Give me a friggin break people.

  5. The Unusual Suspect says:

    If the cops weren’t brutal, why did shy die in their custody?

  6. phasor3000 says:

    If the cops weren’t brutal, why did shy die in their custody?

    Don’t you think we should get the coroner’s report before we assume anything about how she died?

  7. HollywoodBob says:

    Is it standard procedure to leave someone in handcuffs once they’ve been placed in a cell?

  8. TEKNA2007 says:

    Cpt. Tim: You made a valid point, and I didn’t see anything about drawn guns in this incident.

    I’m responding more to the general notion of police encounters and their effectiveness in producing a good outcome. The right thing to do, as apprehendee, in a you-passed-the-Gom-Jabbar kind of way, would be to respond calmly and rationally, following instructions, possibly getting on the ground. Still, everything about the whole notional encounter scenario seems designed to produce anything but a calm and rational response. Would I even be able to think straight? Would I even understand what they were trying to say?

    It seems like what would be needed is someone on the police side who can “act calm to get calm”, but how often does that ever happen.

    I’m hoping if it ever came to it I’d have the sense to hold still and keep my mouth closed, but I guess you don’t know until you try it.

  9. jere7my says:

    Phasor, I checked over the comments, and I didn’t see anyone here suggesting she should have been allowed to run and scream in the terminal. Nobody called her a “meek, innocent victim” — everyone here seems to agree that there should have been an official response. The questions surround what happened to her in custody, not whether she should have been apprehended in the first place. I’m not sure who you’re responding to.

    One thing I might suggest the cops should have done: watched her more closely. The article says they checked on her every 15 minutes; that seems insufficient for someone behaving as irrationally as she’d been.

  10. Anonymous says:

    Was she actually in TSA custody? From reading the article, it appears that she was being held by airport police. It also appears that while there may have been a better way to deal with the situation, they did do all they could to calm her down before resorting to placing her in a cell.

  11. jimh says:

    With #33. This is tragic, and I believe it is a sign of the times.

    The police are ultimately responsible for anything that happens to a person in their custody, including that person harming themselves. We should not forget this.

    Why wouldn’t such a distressed and vocal prisoner have had non-stop observation? If she seemed mentally unstable, wouldn’t a medical evaluation at a hospital have been advised? Why was this not considered over arrest since she had not committed any crime more serious than disorderly conduct/creating a disturbance? It’s hard to imagine that they would leave her alone for even a small amount of time if her behavior was so out of hand that police were involved in the first place.

    From the original situation to the end, it would seem that many opportunities were missed to compassionately diffuse the situation and avoid Ms. Gotbaum’s death.

  12. DoorFrame says:

    I’d imagine if they’re bouncing off the walls, it’s probably not the worst idea.

  13. The Unusual Suspect says:

    “Don’t you think we should get the coroner’s report before we assume anything about how she died?”

    Don’t be an ass. That would be nice, but they don’t tend to publish coroner’s reports on Boingboing.

    I’m responding to the police’s assertion of how she died. They don’t seem to feel the need for a coroner’s report to declare that it was through her own fault that she accidentally choked herself to death, all alone in a holding cell, with her hands behind her back, in the space of five to ten minutes, apparently out of despondency for having yelled at airport security for needlessly causing her to miss her flight.

  14. Giovanni says:

    If she was really acting so irate I don’t think it would be strange to leave her in handcuffs. The holding cell is not the same as a prison cell and would be more to keep people in until they can be moved.
    At least that’s my guess.

    On the other hand, how in the world can someone strangle themselves with their own handcuffs?!

  15. weatherman says:

    There is a difference between developing a theory based on facts and groundless conjecture. We know that:

    1) she likely died of asphyxiation
    2) she died in police custody
    3) the story by the persons at fault makes no sense

    My theory works forward from those facts. Your speculation works backward from the assumption that official sources are telling the truth, and that one way or another Carol was responsible for her own death. That’s just trying to fill in holes in their story; the story of those whose actions led to Carol’s death. I am not quick to believe the word of the accused just because it wears a badge, and nor should anyone else be.

  16. DragonPhyre says:

    Wonderful. Keep making it even ‘safer’ to fly, TSA. I can’t wait until nobody flies anymore because of all the possible ways to die–not including the airplane.

  17. Korpo says:

    Explain to me again how a woman strangling herself with her own handcuffs is the TSA’s fault?

  18. phasor3000 says:

    So it’s ok to run around screaming and throwing a fit in an airport, i.e. she shouldn’t have been arrested, and the TSA is to blame for this woman’s death? Based on what we know so far, what should have been done differently?

  19. noen says:

    It should hardly come as a surprise. Torture is practiced not just outside Americas borders, but within them as well. You just don’t hear about it so much.

    “It appeared as though Ms. 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,” Hill said.

    That doesn’t seem physically possible to me. If it isn’t possible for her to have done it, then it seems to me she must not have done it.

  20. phasor3000 says:

    From the latest version on cnn.com:

    Investigators said officers went to check on her five to 10 minutes later. Police policy requires that be done every 15 minutes.

  21. Xeni Jardin says:

    @phasor3000, i don’t know if that’s rhetorical or directed at the post’s author (me), but I’m not arguing a position here — just noting the incident occurred. A woman died.

    We’ve been following airport security news for some time here on BB, and this is a related story. I don’t know enough about the case to make a judgement of my own, but that wasn’t the point of the post.

  22. weatherman says:

    I don’t think it takes a forensic scientist to figure out that it’s completely implausible that she strangled herself with her own handcuffs.

    As someone quite familiar with police brutality investigations, I can tell you that the one thing we can learn about the case from the story about strangulation is that indeed asphyxiation is likely the cause of death – cops aren’t stupid, and they know a lie that’s the closest to the truth is the one most likely to be believed (or at least get them off). I’m guessing choke hold is the cause of death here.

    I think it’s also important not to take any part of the cop’s story as truth, from the cause of arrest to the cause of death. As we’ve seen from many other similar cases, they always play up the person as being crazed, irrational, and violent. They always throw in the chrage of resisting arrest too, which is usually a red flag for me. We’ll know more in the coming days (hopefully), but taking any of the statements of the police or TSA as fact is a mistake at this point. It’s a homicide and the perpetrators should not believed.

    Condolences to the family.

  23. Xeni Jardin says:

    Ah, also — the law enforcement agency in question appears to be local police in Arizona, who operate at the airport. Not the TSA. But I’m not entirely clear on the facts yet, the NY Post article isn’t too thorough.

  24. Teresa Nielsen Hayden/Moderator says:

    Phasor3000 (13):

    I’m glad to see that you’re keeping an open mind as we wait for more information to come in.

    Stop that.

    Since you’ve shown up in Boing Boing’s comment threads, you’ve jumped to more conclusions and made more unsupported assertions than just about anyone in this conversation. You’re in no position to call others down on that account.

  25. proto says:

    I used to fly so much that the airlines gave me a Companion Pass (whenever I flew, I could take a second person for free).

    Because of the increasing level of “security Theater” nonsense, I haven’t flown in going-on five years now.

    Come to think of it, now that I don’t have to put up with these TSA shenanigans, I do feel much safer!

  26. phasor3000 says:

    taking any of the statements of the police or TSA as fact is a mistake at this point

    And taking as fact that the police killed this woman would also be a mistake.

    It’s a homicide and the perpetrators should not believed.

    I’m glad to see that you’re keeping an open mind as we wait for more information to come in.

  27. Teresa Nielsen Hayden/Moderator says:

    Here we go again. Commenters who are grossly offended by the insult to liberty represented by the disemvowelling of a sentence or two, especially if it’s something they “feel strongly about,” are jumping in to explain that anyone who even slightly deviates from meek, calm, reassuring behavior in airports, no matter what the provocation, deserve whatever they get.

    Is any consistent position being manifest here, beyond a fondness for talking tough?

  28. nick says:

    @#7: “run around screaming and throwing a fit in an airport”

    Nowhere in the report does it say that she was running around, throwing a fit. It says she was shouting.

    @#6: Explain to me again how a woman strangling herself with her own handcuffs is the TSA’s fault?”

    None of us know exactly what happened, but the woman died in police custody. The possibility that it’s the police’s fault has to be considered. Or doesn’t a woman’s death seem important enough to you to be investigated?

    There are those who leap to the authorities’ defense. There are those who leap to the individual’s defense.

    The reason I tend to leap to the individual’s defense is very simple: when you don’t know who is at fault, who needs support more–the giant machinery of governmental bureaucracy, or a lone individual?

    If the authorities are convicted falsely, they will always get off lightly. American history shows this again and again, It’s in the nature of power. Individuals who are wrongly convicted usually getting killed, or go to jail for a long time, or are financially decimated, or otherwise have their lives ruined.

    So yeah, you bet your you-know-what that I will demand a thorough investigation every time, and I will never presume the authorities are innocent simply because they are the authorities. IMO, that kind of thinking is antithetical to traditional American values of personal liberty and the rule of law.

  29. Cpt. Tim says:

    “I’m responding more to the general notion of police encounters and their effectiveness in producing a good outcome. ”

    In this case i don’t believe guns were used, its sometimes necissary to arrest someone, but the situation is not dangerous enough to need firearms.

    However, there are plenty of time swhen it is that dangerous. If people are in danger or if theres a strong possibility of danger, you draw weapons and give the suspect directions. I don’t want my sister (who’s a police officer) dead because they’re mandated to walk up and ask people nicely to put down weapons.

    Thats not to say i’m for police just going around macing people or tasing bro’s either, but i think police are needed and there’s a proper balance. what we lack right now is the ability to weed the bad ones out. personally i think every minute of a cops day should be recorded for review.

  30. Claude Balls says:

    Considering the history of the Phoenix police department, I’d have no trouble believing that this woman died at their hands.

    To all the people who think that what happened here is somehow justified because she was shouting, you’re exactly the kind of bootlickers Bush and Co. love to have as citizens.

  31. Rob, Denmark says:

    @#56 Anonymous/NelC

    “Rob @54: No-one’s solving the case, we’re just pointing out how at variance with reality the official story is.”

    No, you are just concluding things based on A NEWS ARTICLE!

    Like

    “The most mundane explanation is that someone is lying about the situation. This is something that is common when someone dies.”

    Mundane, really?
    Common? Where do you have this ‘fact’ from?

    “This is so common, on a global scale, that events follow an established pattern, including lying abut the situation and circumstances.”

    Global? You have a link to a study or something?

    “The obvious first lie is that Mrs Gotbaum was uncontrollable: “[..] apparently running up and down the gate area”. Note the weasel-word “apparently”. This has been inserted so that the speaker can deny any responsibility for the lie when later facts contradict the “running up and down” bit.”

    Or something a news reporter might write in a news article when reporting 2nd hand? The word “apparently” is used 101,000 times on CNN.com and 5,700 times on NYTimes.com, according to Google.

    “From what we all know about human behaviour — and getting angry _is_ normal human behaviour — we can say that it’s quite likely that Mrs. Gotbaum was merely striding forcefully while giving some poor official a piece of her mind, _not_ running around like methed-up teenager, as the choice of words is meant to imply.”

    So you even if the word “running” is used, you conclude that Mrs. Gotbaum was “merely striding”, not “running around”? Impressive, mr. Quincy!

    All though I’m REALLY impressed by all your many conclusions, based on your reading of a news article, its just that: Conclusions based on a news article!

    May be some important information is mission from the news article:

    Maybe she was sick (looks like, she was).

    Maybe it wasn’t the hand cuffs in itself that strangled her (look like, it wasn’t).

    May be it was just a sad accident, that can be prevented from happening again.

    May be someone should have had better training in recognizing a need for medical help.

    May be, just may be, no one lied?

    I’d STILL like to see a more scientific based approach to an explanation of what happened.

  32. Tom says:

    “It appeared as though Ms. 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,” Hill said.

    This is simply not plausible unless they were quite unusual handcuffs, and the description of the case has some depressing similarities to the shooting of Canadian Ian Bush while in RCMP custody a couple of years ago. The forensic evidence in that case, as argued by a blood-spatter expert at the coroner’s inquest, clearly contradicted the sworn statements of the constable who shot the prisoner.

    Until there is a public, non-police inquiry into what happened in the present case any reasonable person would harbour suspicions as to what actually occurred. It might well be an accidental death, but self-strangulation by handcuffs that were holding a person’s arms behind their back would have to be demonstrated on YouTube for me to believe that is what happened.

  33. strider_mt2k says:

    Where have you gone, TV’s Quincy?
    Our nation turns it lonely eyes to you.

  34. phasor3000 says:

    To all the people who think that what happened here is somehow justified because she was shouting, you’re exactly the kind of bootlickers Bush and Co. love to have as citizens.

    Wow, nice mischaracterization, with a nasty insult thrown in for good measure! Something tells me that the moderator will probably leave that one intact.

  35. vertigo25 says:

    I’m definitely going to follow this story.

    I honestly can not figure out how it is physically possible to do what the police are saying she did.

    I think the family should have an independent ME look in to this.

  36. overtonewiz says:

    Where are the security cameras when you need them? There’s so much money being thrown around in the name of safety and and it all seems to back fire. We are less safe with incompetants armed and in charge. Oh yeah, BAU.

  37. phasor3000 says:

    From the most recent reports:

    CBS 2 HD spoke to one woman who was there, but did not want to be identified.

    “She got her cell phone, broke it on a couple of customers and she threw it on the floor, hit them,” the woman said.

  38. The Lizardman says:

    Strangled herself with her own cuffs is about as likely as was strangled by a unicorn.

    I work as an escape artist and as such I am familiar with all kinds of restraints from the most common to some very esoteric and the only way you could strangle yourself with your own cuffs would be if they were of a type almost never used (particularly in this type of situation) and if it was a deliberate suicide. Even if this woman was an undiscovered contortionist of heretofor unimagined abilities this would be an unbelievable feat.

    It sounds as if the detention was legitimate but the idea that she killed herself in this manner is offensively ludicrous or an admission of incredibly irresponsible restraint use by the officers in question. A person restrained with common cuffs in the manner used by law enforcement can potentially escape from them unsupervised but they cannot strangle themself unwittingly – and to do so purposefully would be a momumental athletic achievement

  39. weatherman says:

    That’s asinine and insulting, Timkuo. She’s the daughter-in-law of the 2nd highest elected official in New York City. She’s the mother of three young children. She’s never has any trouble with the law that we know of. I’m sure the media and the cops would love to paint her as either a trouble-making problem child or an entitled Manhattan Liberal-Elite, but to slander her as a druggie is a new low.

  40. weatherman says:

    @phasor3000: note that I said homicide, not murder. I have an open mind, but to facts, not to the statements of those who may have committed a crime.

  41. phasor3000 says:

    Teresa:

    Since you’ve shown up in Boing Boing’s comment threads, you’ve jumped to more conclusions and made more unsupported assertions than just about anyone in this conversation.

    I would be glad to debate any specific conclusion, assertion, or implication that I’ve made in a thread, preferably in that thread at the time I make it. If you want to paint me with a broad brush, that’s your right, but in the absence of anything specific, I have to treat your comment as an unsupported assertion.

  42. Rob, Denmark says:

    Someone was asking for Quincy. Turns out Quincy are obsolete:

    A lot of people are solving the mystery of the death of this woman by the news article alone.

    No need for autopsy or other messy scientific approaches. Fantastic!

  43. Marshall says:

    Sky Harbor is the one airport I have flown through where the TSA goons struck me as potentially dangerous and odd. Sure they always come off as ridiculous and as unwitting accomplices to a security theatre, but at Sky Harbor one of the guys walking me through the X-ray decided to tell me that he didn’t like that I wasn’t “smiling” and didn’t like the look on my face. This wasn’t after any big inconvenience – I was changing planes with a friend and there was no line, no hassle, no reason for me to be fussy as we were zipping through security. I think this was before the whole “war on moisture” incident, too.

  44. Blackbird says:

    I’m not saying the cops are lying, but there’s a few phrases in the newest release (4:03 today) that seem to cause me some concern. The added the additional info that it was the chain(24 inches) from the shackles that was around (sorry, ‘IN FRONT OF’) her neck. Said chain was attached to her handcuffs and an eyehook on or near the bench she was on. So, I guess the cuffs were left on in the holding cell so they could use the shackles. The line that really got me in the press release was “I hope this helps”. That seems to be a pretty non-standard phrase for a seemingly official release.

    Personally, I do agree with the arrest (actually, I would say with her detainment, if it was a medical condition, she likely wouldn’t be charged after all was said and done). I think that its possible she was de-toxing (it can have strange effects), or some other medical condition. I think we can forget about Quincy here (didn’t he die?) Maybe Dr. House…

  45. Shane says:

    Long time reader, first time poster!

    Generally speaking BB posts lots of examples where the TSA is acting in an asinine or authoritarian manner. On first read, I have to say they might not be the case here.

    Guess what, sometimes cops actually do arrest people who should be arrested. And, sometimes, those people do idiotic things while in custody that makes their circumstances worse. Here, maybe (and please note that before you freak out on my “maybe”), the extreme example of that.

    As others have pointed out, we need a few more facts to come in, but *GASP OF HORROR* in this case the cops might have been justified in terms of the arrest and procedure in terms of placing the person in cuffs in a holding area.

    The only thing I’d want clarification on the issue of leaving cuffs on in the holding area…

  46. Anonymous says:

    [Comment by Daemon - the system never lets me log in]

    I’d sort of like to see an explanation of how it’s possible to strangle yourself by trying to escape from police-issue handcuffs. I’ll grant it status as a theoretical possibility… if you have arms that bend in some really wacky ways.

    On the other side of the coin, eratic behavior followed shortly by mysterious death could be chalked up to a number of purely medical causes.

  47. jimh says:

    Standing by my original comment (#44). Why weren’t MEDICAL personnel involved right away? Why is it now our knee-jerk reaction to physically subdue, restrain, and isolate someone who causes a disturbance? I agree something had to be done, but we cannot assume that one response fits all situations. This woman was obviously unstable; shouldn’t our police officers have been sensitive to that fact?

    We need to look at where we’re heading as a culture. That means asking ourselves if someone in such an agitated condition should be chained to a bench and left alone for any amount of time. Even if she was throwing a fit, she was taken into custody. That means she was in the CARE of the police. Custody means charge or control, but also “safekeeping”.

    (Notice I am not stating that she was entitled to special treatment because of her social status. Perhaps we would not even be hearing about it if she was “Jane Doe of Idaho” as another commenter put it, however.)

    Again, it’s tragic, because it seems that Ms. Gotbaum’s death could have been easily avoided through just a little compassion.

  48. L!SM0R3 says:

    Flame.wars over a dead women.

    how hopelessly egocentric.

    ++

  49. Kobie says:

    It’s interesting that most of the commenters here are talking about the death in custody while ignoring the fact that the woman was arrested for making a scene. Obviously it’s hard to know exactly what went on without more information, but a few years ago somebody shooting their mouth off would simply have been thrown out of the airport – these days we just accept that people can get arrested for making a scene. I guess she was lucky not to be tasered first.

  50. Anonymous says:

    “”It appeared as though Ms. 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,” Hill said.”

    That is a load of crap.

    If you are escaping handcuffs that are behind you, anatomy requires they go under and around your legs to the front (see the movie FX for a spectacular example of this). This is easy to do, especially when done slowly in a seated position (unless they use the zip-ties, which put your wrists firmly against each other).

    She would have had to dislocate one or more of her shoulders to get them “around her neck area”.

    She was strangled to death. That assessment is further supported by the fact that they didn’t use spray or tasers on her– so they had to have restrained her physically.

  51. Jennifer Emick says:

    I’m wondering if there was a camera in the holding room

    <<

  52. brian rutherford says:

    If this lady had been Jane Doe from Idaho this story would have caused a slight ripple across the internet but the police ‘F****d’ up big time by having a well connected person die in their custody. I don’t think we’ve heard the last of this and If I was one of the officers involved I be getting worried that the whole truth, whatever that may be, is going to come out.

  53. Dave X says:

    I don’t think its so impossible for self-strangulation to accidentally occur. If she got her necklace somehow entangled with them (and surely, someone capable of getting half out of cuffs is pretty flexible) then she might very well have been in a situation where it could have choked her in some manner.

    I hate to be flippant, but shit happens, and sometimes it’s pretty freakish. Remember that little girl who got her intestines sucked out by the pool drain? That was probably rather unexpected, too. Or there’s the guy BB reported on with the chair through his eye socket and down his throat– and he’s fine!

    All I’m saying is that freak accidents occur. That they’re unlikely, surprising and abnormal is what MAKES them freak accidents.

  54. TEKNA2007 says:

    It also appears that while there may have been a better way to deal with the situation, they did do all they could to calm her down

    Has anyone noticed that running and yelling with guns drawn and getting all up in someone’s face does not produce a calming effect?

  55. Cpt. Tim says:

    TEKNA2007: Yes, but did you notice the word “gun” does not appear in the article or in this comments section until you mentioned it?

    just sayin

  56. TEKNA2007 says:

    just sayin

    as was i

  57. jordan314 says:

    This doesn’t make any sense. Think about it. If her arms were handcuffed behind her back, she couldn’t twist them backwards and over her head to strangle herself, if anything she’d try to step through them to bring them to the front. If she had them in front of her, why would she bring them above her head and behind her neck? Even than, why would she squeeze her elbows? It would be too loose to asphyxiate herself. Unless they handcuffed her arms crossed and then behind her neck, this doesn’t make any sense. Either way, it’s suspicious.

  58. Anonymous says:

    (comment by NelC [seriously, the registration here is fscked])

    Rob @54: No-one’s solving the case, we’re just pointing out how at variance with reality the official story is. Extraordinary claims require extraordinary proof, and the claim that someone has strangled themselves with their handcuffs is really quite extraordinary.

    The most mundane explanation is that someone is lying about the situation. This is something that is common when someone dies; in fact it is often seen when someone, otherwise healthy, dies in police custody. This is so common, on a global scale, that events follow an established pattern, including lying abut the situation and circumstances.

    The obvious first lie is that Mrs Gotbaum was uncontrollable: “[..] apparently running up and down the gate area”. Note the weasel-word “apparently”. This has been inserted so that the speaker can deny any responsibility for the lie when later facts contradict the “running up and down” bit. From what we all know about human behaviour — and getting angry _is_ normal human behaviour — we can say that it’s quite likely that Mrs. Gotbaum was merely striding forcefully while giving some poor official a piece of her mind, _not_ running around like methed-up teenager, as the choice of words is meant to imply.

    How do you control someone who’s angry? Tasers? Choke-holds? What about apologetic behaviour? How about saying, “I’m so sorry for the confusion, Mrs. Gotbaum. Please, step into my office while we sort it out. Would you like some coffee? Some ice-water?” You don’t need paramilitary training to deal with the public, you need social skills, quite simple ones.

  59. TEKNA2007 says:

    To be fair, police encounters produce good outcomes in, what, 99.9% of cases? Or as good as can be expected.

    Yes, there’s nothing to see here. Move along. Here, have a Soma. “A gramme is better than a damn!”

  60. Jennifer Emick says:

    Shoot, whoops. What I meant to do was quote and repond there, must have got cut off- what I said was: Oddly, they don’t seem to have them in holding rooms, or interrogation rooms- places where you’d think they’d be most necessary.

  61. Dave Hecht says:

    Another angle to perhaps consider – if Ms. Gotbaum was acting in a disorderly, irate, etc. manner, shouldn’t that at least set off some warning bells that she was not in a healthy mental state at the time? That is, she could have been having a panic attack, manic episode, or hell, she could’ve been really angry and agitated. These are common enough states that police forces should be trained in how to manage such individuals as to minimize their potential risk to their own and others’ health – without an arm around their neck or knee to the back. And I don’t mean tranq shots or tasers or whatnot – unless they can identify the situation as something that can only be dealt with in such fashion. But certainly, leaving an agitated person unsupervised in a holding cell near the scene of an incident cannot be the ideal way to handle this situation.

  62. Anonymous says:

    She was in police custody, not TSA. TSA can’t take people into custody, only law enforcement can.

  63. spinach says:

    I’m wondering if there was a camera in the holding room. There seem to be cameras all over the aeroports these days. It would sure help to explain some things.

  64. phasor3000 says:

    Nowhere in the report does it say that she was running around, throwing a fit. It says she was shouting.

    Actually the AP story says:

    She was rebooked on the next flight, but “she became extremely irate, apparently running up and down the gate area,” US Airways spokesman Derek Hanna said Saturday.

    Yes, it’s tragic that this woman is dead, no matter what she did. But reasonable adults don’t throw a temper tantrum because they missed their flight and the gate crew won’t make an exception to the rules for them. And resisting arrest, followed by nonstop screaming while in custody, makes it clear that she was not some meek, innocent victim who the cops arrested for no reason. If she had some mental disorder that results in such behavior, why was she traveling alone? Would you want to be in an aircraft at 30,000 feet with someone who’s capable of acting like that?

  65. Anonymous says:

    I agree with JimH – some kind of medical intervention was clearly appropriate.

    This woman went off on the gate agent to an extent that they thought it necessary to call security – *US AIRWAYS* gate agents, who have *got* to be used to it.

    She had already been re-booked on a later flight. What else is there to do except wait for the plane?

    Her on-going freak out in the gate area after being re-booked was enough to arouse the interest of police.

    Her on-going freak out after being arrested should have alerted the police that more than just handcuffs and a holding cell were required.

    People DO die in police custody.

    Those most likely to DIE in custody are people who are in a state of “excited delirium.” I didn’t make up the term; it’s controversial, but is being used in such cases has been listed as an official cause of death.

    “Excited Delirium” is most often associated with drugs such as PCP, Meth, crack, etc.

    But a panic attack can mimic “excited delirium” and cause police to assume the “suspect” is on large doses of hard drugs and lead to pepper spraying and /or repeated TASERing.

    I do not believe this woman was p-sprayed or TASERED. Her demeanor apparently did not change from the gate area to the holding cell.

    She appears to have gone into some kind of high-anxiety or panic attack.

    She did say (according to reports), “I’m a sick mom! I need help!”

    Seems to me that could have been a clue.

    The news reports say police checked on her, “every 15 minutes.”

    How many of those 15 minute periods was she in the holding cell, while she was “continually screaming”?

    She needed medical attention. Police know about “excited delirium,” an the associated deaths-in-custody.

    In any case, there won’t be anyone charged in this case, though some agency (read: taxpayers) may lose a negligence lawsuit. Hopefully this case will go some ways to improving the care of people in custody. I honestly wonder if some kind of tranquilizer dart should replace the taser in such situations – just send these people straight to their happy place.

    REMEMBER: People can and do DIE in custody, sometimes from serious misconduct, and sometimes from simple neglect. This is not TV. You must protect yourself.

  66. Teresa Nielsen Hayden/Moderator says:

    Timkuo, I’m aware that no one literally word-for-word said that. It’s a rhetorical device whereby I referred collectively to opinions offered here and and on other threads about police, TSA, or security guard conduct.

    If you want to learn more about it, you can read back up this same thread, where you’ll find other examples of people using the same technique.

  67. The Unusual Suspect says:

    The obvious way to manipulate handcuffs so as to move them from behind you to in front of you is by stepping backward through them. If you can reach down to put on your shoes, you can do that, easily, never once coming close to your neck.

    Assuming you are reasonably lithe and the cuffs are not so tight that they can’t spin on your wrists, you can also move your cuffed wrists to in front of you over your head. Almost no one knows how to do this, but I’ll wait here while you try…

    Got it? good for you. You did come close to your neck, didn’t you, but at not time were you in danger of strangling yourself, were you?

    So: Fact #1 is that she could not have accidentally killed herself.

    A few centuries of alchemists, doktors, scientifikers, undertakers, coroners, medical examiners and the like have concluded, with no margin for doubt, that one cannot suicide by strangulation at one’s own hand. One must arrange to be strangulated by mechanical means, like hanging, else one invariably passes out non-fatally before accomplishing self-destruction.

    Fact #2: Not a suicide, either.

    She died in police custody. Therefore the police had taken control of her and anything, ANYTHING that subsequently happened to her. That’s what custody means.

    Fact #3: The police are responsible for what happened to her, NO MATTER WHAT HAPPENED.

    Fact #4: Being “extremely irate” does not justify death, even after 9-11.

  68. Flying Squid says:

    “The Daily News reports that authorities say they did not use pepper spray or a Taser on Gotbaum.”

    Sure, the one time a taser might have helped, they don’t bother…

  69. Dave Hecht says:

    Some updates from one of my favorite NYC rags, the New York Post. NYC Public Advocate Betsy Gotbaum calling for investigation, etc. Some details:

    “A police spokesman yesterday said the chain connecting Carol’s handcuffs had been attached to another handcuff that was on the end of a 24-inch-long shackle. The handcuff on the other end of that shackle was attached to a hook on a bench where she was placed.

    “We still do not know how Ms. Gotbaum was able to manipulate the handcuffs to the position she was in,” Sgt. Andy Hill said. “But when she was found, her handcuffs were in front, and the shackle was still attached to her handcuffs. The chain was not wrapped around her neck. It was pulled across the front of her neck area.”

    “Michael Manning, the high-powered lawyer hired by Gotbaum’s family, scoffed at the police account. “Are you kidding me?” he asked. “You really think it happened this way?

    And an eyewitness:

    “On Friday afternoon, Carol began screaming, “I am not a terrorist,” at an attendant in the Phoenix airport after missing her flight, said Omar Guerrero, 22, a worker who saw her.

    “Carol dropped her bags, began stomping her feet and said, “I’m not a terrorist. I’m just sick. I need help. I’m just a mother. I’m just a sick mother,” he recalled.

    “When a security guard tried to calm her, Carol ran to a nearby checkpoint with her hands up and began speaking in a foreign language to three cops who surrounded her.

    “She may have looked like she was crazy, but she looked sad to me. She was crying,” Guerrero said of Carol, who broke away from cops and then punched and kicked at them when they tackled her.

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