A woman who died in police custody last week at Phoenix Sky Harbor International Airport was on her way to Tucson for alcohol rehabilitation, her family’s lawyer said Monday.
Carol Ann Gotbaum, 45, yelled at employees and ran around the airport Friday after she missed her connecting flight from New York.
News reports that Gotbaum told police “I am not a terrorist; I’m a sick mom,” are accurate, said Phoenix attorney Michael Manning.
Phoenix police officers arrested her on suspicion of disorderly conduct and took her to a holding room, where they shackled her to a bench and left her alone, said police spokesman Sgt. Andy Hill. A mother of three and relative of a prominent New York City politician, Gotbaum may have gotten tangled up in her shackles while struggling inside the room, Hill said. She died within a half-hour of her arrest.
This weekend, Gotbaum’s family hired Manning, who has won other cases involving inmate deaths.
The family has not yet decided whether to take legal action, but asked Manning to investigate the circumstances, Manning said, calling the case “highly irregular.”
“We need to make sure that the Phoenix PD investigation is honest, thorough and complete,” he said.
Manning’s investigation will include an independent autopsy after the county finishes its own — likely today.
Manning’s staff has already begun to interview witnesses and research Phoenix police policies, he said.
Gotbaum is the stepdaughter-in-law of New York’s elected public advocate, Betsy Gotbaum, who said in a statement the death is “unusual enough to raise serious questions and warrant a thorough investigation.”
Hill said the department’s investigation continues.
The Associated Press contributed to this report.