Politician wanted airport death shrouded - East Valley Tribune: News

Politician wanted airport death shrouded

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Posted: Wednesday, October 31, 2007 11:45 pm | Updated: 6:43 pm, Fri Oct 7, 2011.

Within hours after a woman died in Phoenix police custody at Sky Harbor Airport in September, her stepmother-in-law, a high-powered New York City politician, asked police to avoid publicly using her family name.

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Betsy Gotbaum, public advocate for New York City, an ombudsman-type service, told police she wanted to insulate herself from the intense national media coverage that would follow Carol Gotbaum’s death, according to a nearly 200-page report released Tuesday by the police department.

“Betsy Gotbaum then asked me if we could use Carol Gotbaum’s maiden name, Carol Stiger, in any official reports, so as to insulate her and her family from media exposure,” Phoenix police officer Michael Polombo wrote in the report.

Police did not comply, using Carol Gotbaum’s married name in e-mails and news releases following the death.

Gotbaum died Sept. 28 while shackled to a bench in a holding cell at Phoenix Sky Harbor International Airport. She was arrested in the airport’s Terminal 4 after she became irate after missing her connecting flight from Phoenix to Tucson, where she was to enter an alcohol rehabilitation program, the report states.

Since then, the case became a lightning rod for media, particularly in New York, due partially to Betsy Gotbaum’s role as the city’s elected public advocate.

A Phoenix attorney representing the family, Michael C. Manning , could not be reached late Tuesday for comment. The Gotbaum family hired Manning and an independent medical examiner to conduct its own investigation into the death.

The report released Tuesday by the police department lays out the intensive investigation it conducted following Gotbaum’s death. It includes summaries of interviews with dozens of people who witnessed her tirade and arrest.

Among the witnesses was an armed senior special agent with U.S. Customs and Immigration Enforcement named Kris Schaufelberger, who just happened to be in the terminal at the time.

Though Schaufelberger was in federal law enforcement, she told investigators she did not intervene when Gotbaum began screaming “I am not a terrorist,” because she had not been asked to by airline officials.

Schaufelberger’s story matched that of many of the other witnesses.

Most saw Gotbaum grow angry at US Airways officials who would not seat her on the next flight to Tucson.

They saw her throw her phone and other items to the ground and yell at airport workers.

Then, when police came to arrest her, they saw her struggle with them on the ground.

At least one witness, airline employee Koolau Davis , said another passenger had given Gotbaum a boarding pass for a Tucson flight, but Davis would not let her use it, saying it was a security breach.

There are conflicting accounts from witnesses regarding her flight from New York. One flight attendant, Pamela Jill Jackson , told investigators Gotbaum ordered a vodka and tomato juice. But a woman who sat next to Gotbaum said she saw Gotbaum drink only soda water.

Tuesday’s report did not reach any solid conclusions about whether she was intoxicated, and the police are still waiting on toxicology reports from the Maricopa County Medical Examiner.

Shortly after Gotbaum was taken into custody, her husband, Noah Gotbaum , was advised of her death by a friend. “They killed her, they killed her,” Gotbaum told him.

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