Tuesday, October 9, 2007

Briefly Considered: Repeat Offenders

Carol Anne Gotbaum's husband Noah and their three children, seen here with their Rabbi following Carol's October 7 funeral at New York's Congregation Rodeph Sholom.

The funeral for Carol Anne Gotbaum had barely ended before we learned that she was not the first innocent, emotionally disturbed woman to die at the hands of the police at Phoenix's Sky Harbor Airport.

The New York Daily News (and thanks to Jeri Lynn Ward, JD, for the tip) reports that Michael Manning, the attorney hired by the Gotbaum family, is planning to sue the Phoenix PD "for the death of a 70-year-old grandmother who died under similar circumstances" as those surrounding Carol Anne Gotbaum's demise.

Doris Watson, an elderly woman suffering from bipolar disorder, died from a heart attack after her arrest on March 13. When paramedics arrived, the police, ever helpful, told them that the grandmother was "faking" the symptoms. This might be even more callous than blithely tending to the details of a Chinese food delivery order -- "I'll have spring rolls with that" -- while keeping Carol's husband Noah in the dark about the fact that his wife had died in police custody.

The details of Doris Watson's case haven't been made public yet, but the Daily News reports that she was "cuffed by Phoenix police after she refused to get out of her daughter's car.... [A] distraught Watson went into cardiac arrest as she was subdued...."

Try as I might, I cannot think of a reason for police to arrest, "subdue," and handcuff a woman in her 70s simply because she refused to get out of a car. Was she considered a security risk, or a shoplifting suspect? That about exhausts the possibilities I can imagine. In any case it's difficult to imagine how the police can justify the kind of treatment that would send a grandmother into coronary arrest, let alone the arrogant, bullying final touch of mocking the victim in her death agony.

Other critical details about Carols death are working their way to the surface.

Last Friday, shortly after the incident, an individual identified only as "an airline employee" has told Manning that Carol "was listless, unconscious [or] nearly unconscious," reports the New York Times. Manning has urged the Phoenix police to interview the witness. It's difficult to see how a woman in that condition would try to injure herself -- let alone carry out the feat of double-jointed athleticism required to strangle herself with the handcuffs restraining her, as the official account describes.

At yesterday's funeral for Carol, Rabbi Robert Levine stated that "The central teaching of both Judaism and Christianity is to love your neighbor as yourself. But at that airport ... there was no such love offered to our Carol."

In his remarks at the funeral, Noah lamented: "If the airline or the airport had put an arm around her shoulders, sat her down and given her some attention, she might still be with us today."

She certainly cried out for help.

According to Omar Guerrero
, an airport vendor who witnessed Carol's breakdown at Sky Harbor, the agitated mother was furious and frustrated after she was refused a seat on a connecting flight to Tucson.

"She kept yelling, `I'm not a terrorist, I'm a sick mother, I need help,'" recalls Guerrero. Other witnesses describe an epic meltdown, with Carol hurling her Blackberry at a wall, emptying her purse, gesticulating wildly, and screaming out profane abuse at the expense of the police and security officials.

Given her behavior, it's clear that security personnel had to intervene. But it's just as clear that she needed medical treatment, rather than being surrounded by cops, taken to the floor, cuffed behind her back, and then chained to a bench in a fashion that might lead to an animal abuse charge had the detainee been a dog rather than a sick, frantic mother.

Carol has been described as a loving, appealing, talented, but troubled woman with serious emotional problems and a persistent alcohol addiction. When Carol and her husband agreed that she needed to be sent to Cottonwood de Tucson, an austere rehab clinic.

The original plan was for Carol to fly directly from New York City to Tucson. But she missed her direct flight in order to see her children off to their first day in public school (they had previously attended a private school at their synagogue). A family friend was supposed to meet her in Phoenix to escort her to the connecting flight, but he failed to materialize. Carol apparently found her way to the airport bar, which certainly didn't help matters.

Many people have criticized Noah for sending Carol to Phoenix alone. Others -- particularly in on-line comment threads -- have insisted that Carol had nothing but herself to blame for her death. As noted above, sending Carol to Arizona by herself wasn't the original plan, and it was seen as a matter of life or death to get her to the rehab clinic in Tuscon as quickly as possible.

The fact remains that Carol -- whatever her behavior -- died in the hands of the police, the same police force that killed another emotionally disturbed woman at the same airport just months earlier.

A minimal amount of human solicitude for Doris Watson and Carol Anne Gotbaum would have prevented those needless deaths. But such traits aren't to be found in the short-term prisons that airports have become in the age of Homeland Security.

Be sure to check out The Right Source and the Liberty Minute archive.


Jerri Lynn Ward said...

I just found an even worse version of the killing of Ms. Watson:

"She apparently died of a heart attack after being arrested for refusing to get out of her daughter’s car. Police continued to subdue her during the heat attack because they believed her to be faking the heart attack. Watson was, at the time, off her medication for bipolar disorder and depression."

The fact that they continued to manhandle her during the heart attack is manslaughter, in my opinion.

Fred said...

Will said:

Given her behavior, it's clear that security personnel had to intervene. But it's just as clear that she needed medical treatment,...


The "government sector" is pretty slow on improving or changing its standards when a change is needed.

The subject of EDPs has been making its rounds for some time now, but its still crawling to the front steps of some agencies.

Many in-custody deaths could have been avoided if only the players involved were recognized as patients rather than criminals or prisoners.

It's astonishing to read the stories about naked men dancing in the street being shot,tazed, bean bagged, etc. when it's very likely they're nothing more than a naked guy who's whacked out for whatever reason and he needs medical attention.

In many of these cases there is no effort by the police to have an ambulance standing by to accept the sick individual after he is detained by the use of reasonable force.

No, the cops aren't medical professionals. But simple CLUES should lead them to the conclusion that they aren't dealing with a common drunkard or rowdy hooligan whose only desire is to annoy others.

Carol Anne Gotbaum delivered those clues on a silver platter. Handing her off to EMS personnel, rather than leaving her alone in a cell, would have been best.

Anonymous said...

I wonder if anyone has compiled statistics regarding the number of people who die each year as a result of being restrained or subdued by police. Could the trend line be moving upward?
I certainly understand that there are times when police must use extreme measures. Few would disagree, for example, that subduing a robust male drunk clearly looking for a fight is a classic example. Treating an emotionally distraught, frightened, or headstrong woman in the same manner, however, may not be appropriate.

Anonymous said...

I just see something very sinister in the whole mindset of today's police and "Homeland Security" personnel.

For heavens sake, yes, they should be able to recognize a mentally ill person. Yes, they may need some degree of physical force to take the person out of the public place and into custody, but when there are two or three police to one woman, even if the woman is not old and frail and mentally and physically ill, common sense says you do not need to use excessive force at all. Two or three cops can easily and surely get one woman under control without needed to be rough and cruel and using excessive force.

So what we have is perhaps a case of the mindset of cops these days. They strike and shoot and taze first, and do not worry a bit about fairly assessing the situation of the "offender". They do not seem to even consider judging what the correct degree of force is for the situation and the person. They also seem confident that they will be supported when the story of the apprehension ends sadly and poorly.

Cops have become sort of like brazen rash animals and they're proud of it.

When these cases always end up working to exonerate the cops involved, the public also is served up another big dose of conditioning to accept this brutality as the accepted norm.

So the cops are spurred on and supported so that they can go on and perpetrate the same behavior on another poor victim. And we the people cease to be outraged but rather become desensitized to these ever increasing incidents.

We should all be fearful and suspicious of all cops. A good cop who is there to protect and defend the public, who is a peace officer, is not an endangered species. He or she is an extinct species. The system spits good people out very fast. Decent people get out of the occupation very fast if they have the slightest degree of sensibilities. And really, a decent thinking person would not even consider being a cop these days.

You can criticize me for being negative and having such a global negative assessment of cops, but I think facing reality is what is called for now in our dying republic.

Fred said...

Anon 8:12 said:

A good cop who is there to protect and defend the public, who is a peace officer, is not an endangered species. He or she is an extinct species.

I got news for you. The problem is MUCH deeper than most realize. Our nation's population has many within its ranks who will do anything to please their masters. Anything.

What was sickening and unacceptable behavior 5,10, or 15 years ago is now just dandy if it falls in line with what our populace agrees is appropriate TODAY.

Haven't you heard a friend, co-worker, or family member proclaim we (the U.S.) should just "Nuke 'em"? (enter any troublesome nation's name here for the purposes of this exercise). There's no discussion of innocent lives. No mention of declaration of war. "Just Do It". We are witnessing the increasing power of the "Just Do It" generation.

This generation is being raised by whatever the idiot box shows them.

Life and freedom are no longer considered by many to be as precious as they once were. Period. From this cast you expect to find an honorable man to uphold the law as you say it should be?
Heck, a good portion of the laws are disrespectful and unconstitutional in the first place. And those in charge of the legislative process are some of the most loathsome creatures on our planet. Do you believe a young man who is the product of today's culture is worthy to watch over your dog? How about your rights?

Sure, some of them could be capable of watching my dog. Some might be capable of protecting me when I'm no longer able to protect myself. But I don't have much faith in their ability, or the ability of many of their generation.

From this generation comes the cops of today. They will have many supporters, for they are cut from the same cloth.

dixiedog said...

As this anonymous pointed out, Mrs. Gotbaum's case has only generated this kind of noise because of her wealthy status and NYC connections. Nothing new under the sun in that regard, unfortunately.

I do have a question, though. Are there no rehab clinics in the urban mega jungle of NYC and it's outlying nearby areas? I cannot understand why a woman, who was known by her husband and presumably other family members (and friends?) to be in this critical of a state of emotional distress and her serious problem with alcohol intoxication, was not sent by her husband, loving family members, or close trusted friends to a local rehab clinic. And even had that have been the case, she would've needed to be escorted. But to place her on a plane alone to fly across the country?? That's insane.

And I have to agree with the sentiment of some that the husband should've accompanied her throughout the journey, given the severity of her known condition. That's just a no-brainer, especially in regards to the husband.

"The central teaching of both Judaism and Christianity is to love your neighbor as yourself. But at that airport ... there was no such love offered to our Carol."

Mr. Levine is correct, and he can admonish the husband first, family members next, and everyone else last on that count. He also apparently forgot how Christianity and its tenets, as well as orthodox Judaism for that matter, is being slowly, but systematically, erased from our culture day by day. Ergo, in spite of the self-characterization of America as 75% or 80% Christian, real (or should I say "fruitful") Christians are an obvious minority.

Can someone explain something to me that I've never grasped? How does a lawsuit make anything better, other than enrich the family, and extract yet more juice out of the taxpayers' already shriveled wallets? Money won't resurrect Mrs. Gotbaum. And I'm sure the lawsuit isn't just for funeral expenses. Even that would be questionable in my mind. So how does it erase, or even minimize, the pain of her loss? If it does, then that speaks volumes and no one needs to explain anything to me. Thanks anyway.

William N. Grigg said...

D.D., the only useful function of a lawsuit of this sort would be to extort (I use the word in its exact sense) the truth out of a recalcitrant police department and municipal government. But suits of this kind almost always end up being settled, with the details kept confidential.

liberranter said...

Has anyone considered the possibility that the violent behavior of our nation's "law enforcement" [sic] personnel toward those who are ill (especially those suffering mental illness) is intentional? Is there an unspoken prejudice within the ranks against the afflicted? Nazi Germany's policy toward the mentally ill was one of extermination, usually in the form of euthanasia, but sometimes took more violent and crude forms as well (e.g., beatings and public humiliation of the insane). While I won't go so far as to say that there is any policy, even tacit, within the organs of the regime that condones brutality toward the mentally ill, it would stand to reason that among the mindset of those recruited into police work the idea of compassion toward those suffering mental illness is something totally alien. Since our own society more closely mirrors that of Nazi Germany on so many other levels with each passing day, why should we avoid considering a comparison in this case?

Anonymous said...

Gate keepers said she was a terrorist....so it goes!

Sources told CNN that Gotbaum was sober when she arrived in Phoenix, as she sent a series of e-mails and made some phone calls, sounding lucid.But 46 minutes before the Tucson flight was scheduled to leave, Gotbaum went to an airport sports bar to get something to eat, and may have had some drinks there, the source said. She arrived at the gate one minute after boarding was closed, and was not allowed to board.Although that upset her, the source said, she did not become irate -- as seen on an airport surveillance tape -- until she was not allowed to get on the next flight to Tucson.
The police report said a man offered to give up his seat on that flight for her, but officials told her he could not do that because it would be considered a security breach.That may explain why witnesses and authorities said Gotbaum was screaming "I'm not a terrorist" at the time of her arrest.

Fred said...

liberranter said...
Has anyone considered the possibility that the violent behavior of our nation's "law enforcement" [sic] personnel toward those who are ill (especially those suffering mental illness) is intentional? Is there an unspoken prejudice within the ranks against the afflicted?

I don't believe there is evidence to suggest the sick are picked on any more than the common criminal, or the innocent citizen minding his own business but finds himself in the way of a "cop gone wild". The mentally ill cases just draw more attention.

In other words, it's a tough guy thing. He who dares to challenge or disobey big bad Johnny Law is gonna learn a thing or two. It does not matter who they are or what they did. Johnny Law is commanded from within to make sure he comes out on top, no matter who he's dealing with.

A wise gentleman trained in psychology once said anger is born from fear. The fear some clowns in uniform have reveals itself when they act unreasonably.

liberranter said...

Fred said...

A wise gentleman trained in psychology once said anger is born from fear. The fear some clowns in uniform have reveals itself when they act unreasonably.

Good point, Fred. And since we can generally assume that fear is rooted in ignorance, the motivation behind the gratuitous jackbooted violence becomes even clearer still.

Patriot said...

I cannot believe how callous some people have become in this country. I was just on a news site where people comments said that she was deserving of death! That it wasn't the fault of the police she went off her medication...what has our society come to!

Anonymous said...

Will comment a second time in this excellent discussion.

I just listened to Will Grigg's visit on Radio Liberty of 10-12-07 (audio archives free link from radioliberty.com).

I have been reading and listening to Mr. Grigg for a long time and I was very impressed and helped by his comments on that radio show, as usual.

But I just had to chime in again and reiterate DixieDog's comments above.

There is some huge missing piece of the puzzle when you see that Mr. Gautbaum simply did not do what he should have done - escort his wife all the way through to her admission to the treatment facility. I see these big "failures" often in he behavior of mothers and fathers and husbands and wives, and we must speak about this matter. It is not okay to avoid speaking of this deriliction of duty by the husband.

I realize some people will use the argument that "the husband should have been with her" in the wrong way, in a way to exonerate the state and the police.

But still Mr. Gautbaum did serious wrong. It's called a sin of omission. We cannot know if it was deliberate omission, but my logic and intelligence tells me it was a "deliberate failure."

So please add that to the parcel of miscarriage of righteousness and justice in this case.

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