Phoenix police released this surveillance camera footage showing officers arresting Carol Gotbaum at Phoenix’s Sky Harbor airport.
Public Advocate Betsy Gotbaum’s son Noah frantically called the Phoenix police department after his wife was arrested and pleaded with authorities to treat his wife with “kid gloves” because she was “depressed” and “suicidal”—and not your average passenger who had to much too drink on a flight.
From the Arizona Republic:
Police reports released Thursday show that her husband, Noah Gotbaum, made increasingly desperate attempts to reach Sky Harbor authorities. But his warnings apparently never reached officers.
“She is suicidal,” Noah told an airport dispatcher, according to a transcript made public Thursday. “She is . . . alcohol abusive.”
“Uh-hum,” the dispatcher said.
“She is also in deep depression and, um, the police have to understand that they’re not dealing with someone who’s been just drinking on (a) flight and . . . acting rowdy,” Noah said.
“OK. Yeah, I think somebody talked to the other dispatcher on that earlier and … we passed along.”
He expressed concern that Carol had been left “all alone.”
“Uh-hum,” the dispatcher responded.
“OK? Because she should not be.”
With each call, Noah became more frustrated, the transcripts show, saying his wife had a medical condition. He wanted the airport to treat her with extreme care, he said.
Police, he said, were “playing with real fire right now.”
But does the surveillance video that the Phoenix PD released offer the best vantage of the Gotbaum incident? At least one reporter thinks not.
Phoenix New Times reporter Stephen Lemons says an airport insider told him there must be other surveillance footage showing close-ups and other angles, viewpoints that might not support the police’s side of things:
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.
[Gotbaum family lawyer] 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?
This article from the Village Voice Archive was posted on October 5, 2007