I made the PHX PD press conference today where Sgt. Andy Hill showed surveillance footage of Carol Anne Gotbaum's arrest and gave details of the events leading up to her death. Above is a clip from the recordings the cops released. PHX PD also issued a full police report containing eyewitness descriptions and some preliminary info. from the autopsy, which I'll get to in a sec.
Personally, I find the video backs up what family attorney Mike Manning has conceded: That she was acting erratically and police intervention was required. Three officers subdue her in the video, and before they do, you can see her doing what someone here called the "I gotta pee dance." (Hey, we've all been there.) Hill stated that they do believe Gotbaum had been drinking. Drinking or not, she was definitely acting odd.
Did she need to be restrained in this manner? I think if we had better video, we could make a more informed decision. I don't think this woman could have done this burly threesome any harm. And they do have her on the ground for a while. Hard to tell if one of them was sitting on her the whole time.
One source, a friend of mine who used to work for the airport, tells me there must be more and better video. He claims there are more cameras in Sky Harbor than a Vegas casino. And those watching from the eyes in the ceiling can zoom in. Also, he pointed out the white-shirted TSA security who're lined up at one point, apparently blocking the view of those behind them. The cops did give us two other angles, but this was the best footage of the lot, and as you can see, the incident is far away. No surprise the cops released this.
Mike Manning has said that "positional asphyxia" could have begun once the cops were on her and handcuffing her. The PHX PD's culpability may lie in what we don't see on this video. There's no video in the holding cells. That's PHX PD policy. But this woman was distressed and likely needed medical care, especially if she was so hysterical that she was able to choke herself to death on her restraints. Hill stated that Gotbaum was checked on 6 to 8 minutes after she was put in the holding cell. The question remains, should the cops have stayed with her the entire time?
Interestingly, according to the police report, Gotbaum's husband Noah did call the cops after his wife was arrested to alert them she was depressed and likely suicidal.
"She is suicidal," Noah Gotbaum told an unnamed PHX PD communications staffer. "She is...alcohol abusive...She is also in deep depression, and the police have to understand that they're not dealing with someone who's just been drinking on [a] flight and acting rowdy. That's not what's going on here."
The police report indicates this call came in about a half-hour before Gotbaum was pronounced dead at 1529 hours, or 3:29 p.m. on Friday. According to Hill, Gotbaum was arrested about seven minutes before 3 p.m., right around the time Noah Gotbaum called.
Reporters didn't get the police report until after the press conference. I had to rush downtown to get my copy. I wonder if the information in Noah Gotbaum's call was relayed to the officers who had Carol Gotbaum in custody.
The cop trying to revive Gotbaum after she was discovered unconscious ended up with a mouthful of Gotbaum's vomit. That was the most colorful moment of the entire press conference. As far as Gotbaum's arrest goes, Hill said the PHX cops are not going to stop cuffing suspects behind their backs, which is standard operating procedure. (No duh there.) I asked Hill about another death in police custody in South Phoenix within the last 24 hours, but he didn't have details. From South Phoenix to Manny-Hanny's Upper West Side. Talk about A Tale of Two Cities.
When I talked to Manning earlier today, he told me that there would be no more statements for the next few days, to show respect for the normal Jewish period of mourning, known as the Shiva. (He said a service was planned for Sunday.) When I asked him why the County Medical Examiner's office didn't allow the family's paid forensic pathologist to examine the brain, the heart and the neck, as has been reported elsewhere, Manning stated,
"The only reason they gave us yesterday is that they were too busy. That was not very satisfying to a family whose mother and wife was lost to them."
I later asked David Boyer, acting Director of Maricopa County's Medical Examiner's Office, about this, and he would only comment that withholding such body parts was not unusual. Below is the PHX PD's report on Dr. Ann Bucholtz's autopsy:
ON 10/2/2007 AT OR ABOUT 0830 HOURS, THE AUTOPSY OF MS. CAROL GOTBAUM WAS BEGUN BY DR. A. BUCHOLTZ AT THE OFFICE OF THE MEDICAL EXAMINER. THE GROSS EXAM WAS COMPLETED AT OR ABOUT 1345 HOURS.
DR BUCHOLTZ ADVISED THAT THE GREEN DISCOLORATION ON THE RIGHT PELVIC AREA WAS FROM NATURAL CAUSES FOLLOWING THE DEATH; IT WAS NOT AN INJURY. SHE DID RELATE THAT THE MARKS ON THE RIGHT BICEP WERE FINGER MARKS/BRUISES CONSISTENT WITH HOILDING MS. GOTBAUM BY THE UPPER ARM WHILE ATTEMPTING TO ARREST OR RESTRAIN HER, IF SHE WAS FIGHTING AS REPORTED.
SHE WENT ON TO SAT THAT SHE FOUND NO PETECHIA, NO FRACTURES, AND NOTHING IN THE AIRWAYS. SHE DID FIND A LIGATURE MARK ON THE RIGHT SIDE OF THE NECK WHICH WAS CONSISTENT WITH THE LEG IRON WHICH WAS USED TO SECURE MS. GOTBAUM TO THE BENCH.
SHE WENT ON TO SAY THAT HER REPORT WAS PENDING TOXICOLOGY AND MICROSCOPIC EXAMINATION.
THE BRAIN WAS NOT EXAMINED AT THE TIME OF THE AUTOPSY, BUT WAS RETAINED AND FIXED FOR LATER EXAMINATION.
DR. BUCHOLTZ WENT ON TO ADVISE THAT SHE HAD COLLECTED DUPLICATE SAMPLES TO BE RETAINED FOR THE PRIVATE PATHOLIGIST WHO WAS BEING RETAINED BY THE FAMILY.
When I have time to read through the entire police report and digest, I'll update.
For more on the Gotbaum case, see these past entries:
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