A man whose wife died in police custody after causing a disturbance at the Phoenix Sky Harbor International Airport told authorities, before learning of her death, that his wife was in a deep depression and suicidal.
The husband told emergency operators that Carol Anne Gotbaum’s erratic behavior was a medical emergency and that police needed to understand they weren’t encountering a simple disturbance, according to a police report released Thursday.
“They’re not dealing with some lout who’s just drank too much on an airplane,” the report quoted Noah Gotbaum as saying. “That’s not what’s going on here.”
Carol Anne Gotbaum, the 45-year-old stepdaughter-inlaw of New York’s public advocate, was arrested Sept. 28 on suspicion of disorderly conduct after she was kept off a connecting flight that was to bring her to Tucson, where she was set to enter a treatment center to confront her alcoholism.
Police said she was shackled to a bench and left her alone in a holding room where she was later found unconscious and not breathing with the chain from the shackle pulled against the front of her neck. Authorities are investigating the death.
Michael Manning, an attorney representing Gotbaum’s family, said he was concerned that police didn’t approach the emotionally distraught woman more gently.
“The reason she had the emotional meltdown she had was because she wanted to get to Tucson,” Manning said. “It was a commitment and dedication to the high-minded mission to get well that would lead her to break down in the airport.”
Sgt. Andy Hill, a spokesman for the Phoenix Police Department, said officers tried to calm Gotbaum, didn’t know she was headed to a treatment center and didn’t believe she was a threat to herself.
Gotbaum was traveling alone, and her husband was in New York when he called emergency operators to inquire about his wife and assure authorities that a family friend was on his way.
Gotbaum decided while she was sober that she could travel to the treatment center alone, and her husband agreed, Manning said.
A surveillance video shows Gotbaum running through the airport terminal, bowing abruptly as she appeared to yell and resisting arrest as officers tried to control her.