Thanks to Jerri Lynn Ward, J.D., I've been given a link to the Phoenix PD report on Carol Anne Gotbaum's arrest, detention, and death.
[See the fourth update below]
These three things I know for sure:
*I am not of Scandinavian ancestry.
*There is no difference between "good" flan and "bad" flan.*
*Carol Anne Gotbaum did not strangle herself with the handcuffs that were used to restrain her.
Thus it follows that the Phoenix Police Department, which claimed that the tiny, 45-year-old mother of three small children somehow choked herself on the cuffs, is concealing the truth about what killed her.
Mrs. Gotbaum, who was on mood stabilizing drugs (which she hadn't taken that morning), was detained at Phoenix's Sky Harbor Airport en route to a very expensive alcohol rehabilitation clinic in Tucson.
Her family contact hadn't met her there, as he was supposed to, which didn't improve her mood. She had been singled out by the TSA groper squad for individualized molestation, which likewise helped to undermine her serenity. Carol Anne had reportedly attempted suicide in New York a year ago, which suggests that she was severely troubled and desperately seeking help.
By the time the police arrived, Gotbaum was in the middle of a full-orbed breakdown.
"They're not letting me on!" she exclaimed in a cellphone call to her husband Noah just before her arrest. "It's all falling apart." Noah called US Airways officials to plead on behalf of his wife: "It will be okay. She just needs to take her medication."
It was clearly a medical crisis, not a security issue. But those running the Homeland Security State in which we've been sentenced to live insist on treating those situations identically. The last time an airline customer suffered a breakdown, he was gunned down by federal air marshals.
After mild-mannered missionary Rigoberto Alpizar was murdered at the Miami Airport in November 2005, the air marshals insisted that the victim had made a bomb threat ... which was, you know, audible only to the specially trained air marshals, which is, like, you know, why the other passengers didn't hear it, and stuff.
The truth is that Alpizar, who also suffered from a mood disorder, had a panic attack, which proved to be fatal because it prompted lethal panic on the part of people indoctrinated to see the public as the enemy. So perhaps it's a minor miracle that Mrs. Gotbaum survived long enough to be put into a detention cell at the airport, rather than being capped where she stood.
Then again, it is possible -- I'd say likely -- that she suffered a lethal injury when the police (it's not clear how many) tackled her to the ground, one of them putting his knee into her back.
Consider: Mrs. Gotbaum was a small-boned, petite woman of 45 who weighed less than 110 pounds. One eyewitness described the police assault on her as resembling a "football tackle," followed by the use of a knee in the back as a restraint.
[Update: Newly released surveillance video shows Mrs. Gotbaum going to the floor while surrounded by four officers. The police spokesman narrating the film says that the officers "went to the ground" with her to protect her from injury. It looks like she sagged, rather than being forced to the floor, but it's difficult to tell for sure how she ended up lying prone on her stomach. What I find really peculiar is the idea that the best way to calm down a hysterical and obviously harmless woman is to have her surrounded by large armed men who seize her and attempt to handcuff her -- particularly when the specific source of her anxiety is the idea that she had been mistaken for a terrorist.]
She was dragged away to a holding cell, where she was chained to a bench by a sixteen inch chain. She died about fifteen minutes later.
Is it possible that the victim suffered a broken rib, or even a punctured lung?
[Update: Although there is no audio available for the surveillance footage, the police narrator claims, on the basis of witness accounts, that Mrs. Gotbaum was "screaming at the top of her lungs" while being dragged away to detention. This is understandable. It also more or less shoots down my initial speculation about a punctured lung.]
The question is purely speculative, of course. But it is much more plausible than the official police explanation, which emits the signature bouquet of bovine residue.
Anybody who has had his or her hands cuffed behind the back (as someone who has been arrested in two countries and threatened with arrest in a third, I have had that experience) should understand that the feat of contortionism required for Mrs. Gotbaum to die in the fashion the police described was impossible. Well, unless she managed somehow to duplicate the experiment that turned Reed Richards into Mr. Fantastic.
And the story gets even less plausible from there, beginning with the inconsistency in police descriptions of the death scene: Was the chain that supposedly strangled Mrs. Gotbaum wrapped "around" her throat, or "pressed" against it? The former might explain asphyxiation, the latter probably wouldn't, and both descriptions have been offered by the police.
The "official" autopsy wasn't deferred, as the family had requested, until Dr. Cyril Wecht, the independent pathologist they had hired, could be on hand as an observer.
The police refused to defer the "official" autopsy. Michael Manning, the family's attorney, was present at the official autopsy and reported seeing "numerous bruises all over her body."
Dr. Michael Baden, a noted forensic pathologist, told the New York Daily News: "There were a number of things that were done wrong here. If she's asphyxiated, someone else did it." On the basis of what's known, Dr. Baden concludes, "the most likely cause of death has to do with asphyxia and could be a result of too much pressure on her chest when they were putting on the handcuffs and the shackles."
[Second update: Manning, the Gotbaum family's attorney, has put into play the idea that someone may have used the chain on Carole Anne's handcuffs to strangle her. This is possibly nothing more than an attempt by a very aggressive lawyer to tune public opinion in advance of a lawsuit, perhaps as a means of extracting a very large settlement. But it may have the effect of pushing Phoenix authorities away from the entirely implausible story that she somehow strangled herself. Another possibility raised in this story is that Carole was killed by "compressional asphyxia" as a result of the knee to her back. But this doesn't really seem likely, since she was able to walk and put up some resistance as she was dragged away to the detention cell. That being said, it's possible that some serious and ultimately life-ending injury was sustained at the bottom of the police scrum.]
She was shackled because, as I've pointed out elsewhere, for those enforcing the will of the Homeland Security State, the default setting is "overkill." Dr. Baden points out, correctly, that in Mrs. Gotbaum's mental state she should have been taken to a hospital, not a holding cell, and she should not be left alone.
There was no security risk here. The heroes in blue could have handled an admittedly frantic 105-pound woman without forming a rugby scrum, grinding her face into the floor, and cuffing her hands behind her back. They did this because they're permitted to, not because it was necessary.
So Carole Anne is dead, and her three small children are now motherless.
Whatever proves to be the officially defined cause of Carol Anne Gotbaum's death, it happened because of the tactics used by the Homeland Security State -- the needlessly invasive and time-consuming TSA screening, the unjustified use of brutal force by the police, and the culpable ineptitude displayed by both agencies in dealing with what was obviously a medical crisis, not a security threat.
This much we can know for sure.
Steve Lemons of the Phoenix New Times, a left-leaning independent weekly, reports on the Phoenix PD press conference during which the surveillance video was shown. The most important detail in Clemons' report is the fact that Noah Gotbaum called the police subsequent to the arrest -- actually, almost simultaneously with the arrest -- to warn them that his wife, in addition to having problems with alcohol, was clinically depressive and suicidal: "[T]he police have to understand that they're not dealing with someone who's just been drinking on [a] flight and acting rowdy. That's not what's going on here."
This being the case, there was no excuse at all for her to be left alone in the detention cell for any period of time. If the Phoenix PD sticks with the story that Gotbaum somehow killed herself, the fact they were warned about her suicidal condition seals the case for official culpability of some kind. And it gets worse from there if the story changes, of course.
FOURTH UPDATE: "I'll have some spring rolls with that...."
Once again I'm in the position of retailing the investigative work of Steve Lemons from the New Times, who has examined the police report of the events leading up to, and surrounding, the death of Carol Anne Gotbaum. The most revealing tidbit in his latest account is the description of county pathologist Dr. Ann Bucholtz's puzzled efforts to figure out how Carol Anne and supposedly strangled herself. Dr. Bucholtz, who inspected the detention cell shortly after Carol Anne's death, noted that she was about the same size and build as the victim.
Also noteworthy is the additional detail that Noah's anguished phone call to the police warning that in arresting his clinically depressive wife, they were "really playing with fire right now," emphasizing that she was suicidal and that the police were dealing with "a medical emergency."
How did the ever-alert police dispatcher react to this urgent, life-and-death intelligence?
"I'll have some spring rolls with that."
That comment was made with reference to an order the dispatcher had placed for Chinese food between anguished phone calls from Noah Gotbaum as his wife was dying in police custody.
To serve and protect, y'all.
FIFTH UPDATE: "Tell 'em, uh, you're gonna ... call him right back...."
The title of this update is taken from a transcribed comment made by Lt. Gehlbach of the Phoenix PD, instructing the dispatcher to find some way of putting off Noah Gotbaum's desperate phone calls. At that point, Noah was still offering the police urgent advice on how to deal with his suicidal wife, and he doesn't know that his wife is already dead. The police played keep-away with that fact for quite a while; and judging from the fact that they ordered Chinese food for delivery during the interval, the fact that they were stringing along a desperate husband whose wife had just died in their custody didn't seem to put them off their feed.
Reading the police report it becomes clear that what precipitated Carol Anne's fatal breakdown was the stupid intransigence of both the TSA and Mesa Air, the latter being the regional airline that was supposed to take Carol to the rehabilitation clinic at Cottonwoods Hospital. It doesn't help that she somehow wasn't able to make connections with David Watson, the close family friend who was supposed to meet her at Sky Harbor Airport.
Carol wasn't permitted to board the connecting flight because she was late, apparently on account of a TSA screening. According to the witness statement of TSA supervisor Thomas Greenlaw, "The ticket agent told [him] that [Carol] started making a commotion when she missed her flight. A male passenger volunteered to give up his boarding pass but the ticket agent told him they could not do that because it would be a security breech [sic]. The woman started yelling she was not a terrorist and took off running up the concourse."
Greenlaw, who witnessed the arrest, reports that the police "gently took [Carol] to the floor" -- which squares with another eyewitness account that Carol was "tackled," rather than sagging of her own volition. While she was being swarmed by armed men who wanted to yank her arms behind her back and cuff her wrists, Carol -- according to Greenlaw -- was screaming: "I'm not a terrorist, I'm a f*****g American!"
She wasn't a terrorist, simply (as she told the police who arrested her) a "depressed, pathetic housewife." And within a few minutes of saying so, she was needlessly dead.
It doesn't take a background in intelligence analysis to recognize that a woman like Carol Anne Gotbaum was not a terrorist or a threat of any kind. And it doesn't take a medical degree to recognize that a woman behaving as she did needed to go to a hospital immediately, rather than being gang-tackled, handcuffed, and then chained to a bench like a murder suspect.
Dealing with a situation of this sort requires patience, discretion, and individual initiative. Police officers a generation ago could have handled this matter in a more suitable fashion; there are, no doubt, many veteran police officers around today who could have done so as well. But the traits listed above have no place in the Homeland Security apparatus that now controls our police.
(Owing to some family medical crises of my own -- Korrin's not in the hospital again, although she's had a rough week; I had to take our two-year-old Sophia emergency room yesterday, but she's doing better -- I'm a bit tardy with this somewhat sketchy update.)
The autopsy report (.pdf) from Maricopa County Medical Examiner Ann L. Bucholtz has been published. The official conclusion is that Anne Gotbaum died of accidental "asphyxia by hanging," with "acute ethanol and prescription medication intoxication" acting as "[c]ontributing factors."
Reading the report without the requisite medical background, I was struck by the fact that Dr. Bucholtz's findings did nothing to clear up the most perplexing questions in this tragic case. It is still difficult at best to imagine how a woman could strangle herself with handcuffs fastened behind her back, let alone manage to "hang" herself with them.
Odder still is the fact that after somehow "hanging" herself, Carol was found (per the summary at the end of Bucholtz's report) in what the guard "thought was initially a sleeping position." Assuming that she managed to hang herself, how did she end up in that posture?
The toxicology findings demonstrate that Carol, who was headed for rehab, should not have been left alone. A summary of a recently released police report indicates that it was Carol's choice to fly by herself from New York to Arizona, but obviously it would have been better had her husband insisted on accompanying her, and making appropriate arrangements for the temporary care of their children.
The same summary makes it pretty clear that there was a brief interval following Carol's missed connection to Tucson when it may have been possible to calm her down and regain control of the situation: She was regaining her composure with the help of a female TSA agent when the police showed up. Their arrival prompted her to start yelling and flailing her arms again. From there things degenerated pretty quickly.
What if the police had told Carol they weren't going to arrest her, that they simply wanted her to calm down? What if they had offered assistance, rather than immediate detention? In what passes for the minds of some people, even to make this suggestion is impermissible, since we're not permitted to second-guess the decisions of people wearing a government-issued costume. To the same people, second-guessing the decisions of the grieving father in this case is mandatory, however.
One last personal note: In the comment thread below, an individual of the sort described immediately above very generously invited me to "shut the f*ck up." To him I reply: My city of residence is published in this blog, and you no doubt know how to operate Google. You're cordially invited to come out here at your convenience and make me "shut the f*ck" up.
*Lest I be accused of plagiarism, rather than understood to be offering an homage, I have to credit David Mamet for this line from my favorite political satire.
On Another Note ...
It must be said that any day I manage to aggravate a Nazi is a day not wasted. Jump over to my other blog (particularly the comments thread in the most recent entry) if you're interested in seeing what I mean.
And be sure to check out The Right Source and the Liberty Minute archive.
Dum spiro, pugno!