A powerful New York family on Wednesday demanded $8 million from Phoenix for the death of family member Carol Anne Gotbaum, who died last year in police custody at Sky Harbor International Airport.
Within hours of the demand, however, the city and police department said they would not pay, setting the scene for a lawsuit that promises to drag on for some time.
The Gotbaums' demand came in the form of a 197-page notice of claim, which state law requires the family to file before it can sue the city.
Written by attorney Michael Manning, it blamed Phoenix for the death of the woman, who was the stepdaughter-in-law of one of New York City's top elected officials, Public Advocate Betsy Gotbaum.
Carol Gotbaum died in custody Sept. 28 after she was shackled to a bench inside an airport holding cell. She was placed there after yelling and causing a scene in an airport terminal.
Gotbaum somehow got tangled up in her shackles and strangled herself, reports show.
In its response, the city blamed the family for making a "media event" out of the death.
"The police officers extracted from the City of Phoenix a promise - if the Gotbaum family publicly accused the officers of being responsible for Carol's death, then the City would publicly defend the officers," the unsigned response stated.
Gotbaum had apparently missed her connecting flight on her way from New York to an alcohol treatment facility in Tucson when she became irate.
"The City of Phoenix police officers responded with professionalism and restraint to a situation not of their making," the city's response said. "The claim by the Gotbaum family is denied. It is denied by the City of Phoenix. It is denied by the individual officers."