Witnesses of Carol Anne Gotbaum's arrest allege police brutality.
For anyone who didn't see Anderson Cooper 360 last night, Cooper interviewed two witnesses of Carol Anne Gotbaum's Friday arrest at Sky Harbor Airport, and their accounts were, to say the least, highly disturbing. According to Cooper, Mel Pittel and Paige Harmon called CNN from Hawaii to explain what they saw while at the airport. You can read the full transcript of their interviews, here. (Check about midway down.)
Pittel described Gotbaum's actions as bizarre and obviously distressed. "I saw her laying on the carpeting in the entrance to the concourse," he told Cooper. "Basically just sort of screaming and kicking, but there was nobody around her. It's like she had fallen or had tripped or something was my first impression. It turned out, of course, that she was just laying there."
Pittel said Gotbaum was screaming that she was not a terrorist. "It was a very strange, bizarre situation," he stated. "The police made no effort whatsoever to try to calm her down, though."
Pittel characterized the police response as "excessive":
COOPER: Mel, did you think she was a threat to anyone? I mean, did you feel threatened?
PITTEL: Absolutely not. Absolutely not. She was coherent. She wasn't vulgar. She said -- she was -- she was relatively -- very steady on her feet, actually. She wasn't weaving. She didn't appear to be drunk or anything like that. She just was very demonstrative.
COOPER: You thought the police response was, what, excessive?
PITTEL: Very excessive. They rushed in and grabbed her and threw her down. Nobody ever said anything to her, "lady, hey, calm down. Take a breath. Can I help you? What's wrong?" anything like that.
Witness Harmon described Gotbaum's arrest in more detail:
One of the officers ran towards her and grabbed her, and then the two other officers came up, and they -- one threw her to the ground, and then they -- it was as if they were tackling her. One of them pulled their arm -- her arm behind her with extreme force. I thought that they were going to -- or they had separated her shoulder. It looked very, very forceful.
Anyway, and then they -- in all of this, somebody -- one of the officers leaned down and pressed on her back. And then all of them were on her almost like they did a football tackle hold, and they got the -- they got the handcuffs on her. And then an officer came up to us and said, "move it along. Move it along. This isn't anything for you to witness or for you to see." And so we reluctantly walked away.
Gotbaum was a slight woman, less than 110 pounds according to some accounts. Why was such extreme force necessary, and by so many officers? Can't these big, bad PHX cops take care of a little drunk lady minus the rugby moves? She's lucky they didn't plug her right there for resisting arrest.
If officers tackled her in this manner, you can bet she would've had the wind knocked out of her, and may not have been able to breathe. To those who've offered knee-jerk excuses for the cops on this, what if Gotbaum had been your wife, your daughter, or your sister? Sorry, the po-po are supposed to know how to deal with crazy people without killing them.
This is turning into a real black eye for the PHX PD. No wonder they've stopped answering questions about it. And with ball-bustin' attorney Mike Manning in the corner of the family Gotbaum, Phoenix taxpayers will ultimately pay the price for this eff-up through the eventual settlement or judgement from the lawsuit that we all KNOW is gonna get filed.
Anyway, below are the two statements that have been issued so far from PHX PD spokesman Sgt. Andy Hill. Below that are links to previous posts. More to come as I get it.
Subject: 10/01/07 UPDATE: In Custody death of Ms. Carol Gotbaum in Phoenix - DR#2007-71879515
All: I was finally able to meet with investigators today after a very busy weekend and get some updated information. Thank you for your patience. The initial information is the same but there are some additional and very pertinent information that I want to pass along.
The following was related to me by the investigative supervisor an hour ago:
Ms. Carol Gotbaum was arrested for disorderly conduct after witnesses and officers observed her yelling and screaming on concourse B in terminal 4 at Sky Harbor Airport.
When Ms. Gotbaum was arrested and handcuffed with her hands behind her back she was taken to the holding office in terminal 4 and placed in a holding room. There she was searched but was continuing to be vocally and physically disruptive in the holding room. Ms. Gotbaum was additionally restrained as follows: In the holding room there is a bench with an "eyehook" attached to it. The officers took a "shackle", which is described as a metal chain, approximately 16" long, with a large "handcuff" on each side. The total length of the chain with handcuffs is approximately 24''. One of the handcuffs on the "shackle" was attached to the "eyehook" on the bench. The other handcuff of the shackle was attached to the chain of the handcuffs that were already on Ms. Gotbaum's hands. So Ms. Gotbaum was handcuffed with her hands behind her back, and additionally those handcuffs were attached to a shackle that kept her attached to the bench.
This is the best we can describe the situation at that point. All of the previous information is still the same with the addition of the information of the shackle. We still do not know how Ms. Gotbaum was able to manipulate the handcuffs to the position she was in. 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 against the front of her neck area.
I hope this helps. Again, the Phoenix Police Department is conducting a death investigation. The Medical Examiner's Office will determine cause and manner of death. And the Phoenix Police Department Professional Standards Bureau is conducting an internal investigation, which is standard operating procedure.
I am not planning on doing any further interviews. The information described thus far is the official comment from the Phoenix Police Department.
I will not be releasing any further information until such time as it is available. You are welcome to file public records requests with our Public Records bureau as follows: send an email to: email@example.com Please forward this to any of you national and New York outlets or associates as they have all been asking for any updates.
Thank you, Sergeant Andy Hill Phoenix Police Department
Sent: Sunday, September 30, 2007 1:48 PM Subject: In Custody death at Sky Harbor Airport - DR#2007-71879515
Victim: Gotbaum, Carol Ann; w/f; DOB 12/10/61 (NOK has been notified)
All: The following information is from Phoenix Police investigators. Please note that this is preliminary information subject to change as the investigation continues. The medical examiner will determine cause and manner of death.
As you all know, the Phoenix Police Department responded to a call at terminal 4 in Sky Harbor Airport yesterday at 1449 hours in the B area of the terminal.
According to witnesses Ms. Gotbaum was not able to get on her flight and had an argument with the gate attendant. A number of witnesses told officers Ms. Gotbaum was yelling and screaming and running through the terminal. As two officers responded to the call they confirmed the subject disturbing was Ms. Gotbaum and they contacted her as she was going past the security checkpoint area back into the terminal. The officers were not able to calm Ms. Gotbaum and eventually arrested her for disorderly conduct. Ms. Gotbaum resisted being handcuffed but the officers were able to take her into custody near the security checkpoint.
Ms. Gotbaum was taken to the police holding room office in terminal 4. A number of police employees were in the holding room office. Ms. Gotbaum was placed in an individual holding room by herself in handcuffs. Ms. Gotbaum was continually screaming while handcuffed in the holding room. Investigators said Ms. Gotbaum was alone for approximately 5-10 minutes when monitoring officers did not hear her voice any more and went to check on her (Phoenix police policy requires prisoners be checked once every 15 minutes - Operations Order 7.3.2.F.1). At that point officers found her unconscious and not breathing. They called for the Phoenix Fire Department to respond while they tried an AED and CPR to revive her without success. The fire department arrived shortly thereafter. They were not able to revive her. She was pronounced dead at the scene.
According to investigators 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. She went into medical distress where she lost consciousness. Again, this is a possible explanation only from investigators and the medical examiner will have to make a determination as to the manner and cause of death.
This is all the information that will be released at this point. This is considered a death unknown at this point by investigators. The investigation is continuing.
Sergeant Andy Hill
For more on the Gotbaum case, see these past entries:
Get the This Week's Top Stories Newsletter
Every week we collect the latest news, music and arts stories — along with film and food reviews and the best things to do this week — so that you’ll never miss Phoenix New Times' biggest stories.