Customer Service, Understanding, Police Procedures and Preventable Death

Carol Anne Gotbaum

I was just watching CNN when I saw the story about Carol Gotbaum.

I can tell you what led to her death. A lack of listening, compassion, caring and understanding.

I have been in similar situations in airports. I know how they people treat someone who is late for a plane. Typically, they show no compassion and no understanding. They simply say "The flight is closed." Most of them don't really care how important it is to you that you get on the flight.

I hope that the family of Carol sues the airline for not showing their mother any compassion. I hope that they find psychologists to testify that when someone is upset, they just need someone to show some compassion, empathy and understanding. I fully believe Carol would be alive today if the airline staff had done this. I also believe she would still be alive if the police had done it.

They interviewed someone in the police and asked if he thought the way the officers handled things was "appropriate." The police captain or whoever it was answered "absolutely." This is probably mostly because he feels defensive and protective of his officers. It is probably partly because he is simply ignorant, and partly because he lacks innate emotional intelligence. It is also because of his training in the police force. Notice the word "force" in that term. The police captain or whoever it was, also said they were following standard procedure. But this doesn't make it the best thing to do. An unarmed, emotionally upset woman is not the same thing as a physically aggressive man with a weapon.

So I hope that the family sues both the airline and the police force. I hope that win a huge settlement and they do something with the money to help change how airlines treat their customers and what the police call "standard procedure."

Ironically, just the day before yesterday I was telling some friends about how I got upset one time in the airport in Atlanta and I slammed my fist down on the computer monitor. I told them that they called the company management and then they asked me to go with them to an office where they listened to my complaint. They did a good job of listening, which calmed me down quickly. They then gave me a small peace offering in the form of a free calling card so I could call the person who was waiting for me to let her know I would be late. I told my friends that if I had done the same thing in the USA now they would probably call airport security and have me arrested instead of calling the airline manager and helping me feel understood.

I totally believe this woman's death could have easily been prevented with just some understanding on either the part of the airline or the police. I am sorry I don't have a PhD in psychology so I couldn't be called in as an expert witness to testify. But I hope the family reads this and feels encouraged to bring about some changes in the standard business practices and police procedures.

S. Hein
Oct 2, 2007
Parnu, Estonia

EQI.org Home Page

Other EQI.org Topics:

Emotional Intelligence | Empathy
Emotional Abuse | Understanding
Emotional Literacy | Feeling Words
Respect | Parenting | Caring
Listening | Invalidation | Hugs
Depression |Education
Personal Growth

Search EQI.org | Support EQI.org


Here is pÓrt of the airport surveillance video.


In it we see how quickly the police attempted to physically control her. It took only about 15 seconds from the time the first one arrived till the time one of them reached out to grab her. She reacted instinctively out of fear, backing away. The officer then pursued her like a predator pursues its prey. Within seconds three officers had her surrounded and trapped. This clip only shows their initial assault on her. A few seconds later they had her pinned to the ground. A few minutes later, she was dead.

In my opinion, the first officer who moved forward to grap her is guilty of accessory to murder. The other officers could have saved her life if they would have stopped the first one from physically pursuing her. Instead, they joined in the kill.

If there is such a thing as emotional intelligence, these officers show their extreme lack of it, and show why screening for something that is really emotional intelligence, and not just the ability to conform and obey, would help prevent needless deaths like Carol's..

See also the killing of Robert Dziekanski

Here is a video which shows a good example of the kind of lack of compassion in the USA among many peope.





See News stories below


Emotionally Intelligent?

Would the experts say that Carol was showing a "lack of emotional intelligence" when she got so upset at the airport? I think most of them probably would. They want us all to be something like zombies, accepting anything we are told or any way we are treated, and even smiling about it, and encouraging others to go along with the same abuse.

My own belief is that Carol was an intelligent, sensitive, emotionally intelligent person who was in some way abused as a child and teen. If she went through 13 years or so of public schools in the USA; then I would say she was almost definitely emotionally and psychologically abused from that alone. I created the "Born in America Disorder" page as a satire, but there is a lot of truth in it. If you are an intelligent, sensitive person who actually feels in the USA, and who tries to fight the system, or even change it, you are a candidate for the mental hospital, rehab center or jail.


This is a good case of how the word "appropriate" is very subjective. We have to ask "appropriate for who?" and "according to who?" We would get very different answers if we asked Carol or her family whether what the police or the airline staff did was appropriate. I suggest we ask "Was it healthy for Carol?" And "was it necessary?"

I believe the answers to both of these last two questions are "absolutely not".

Yet the police authority said that it was "absolutely" appropriate. So who decides? And should we even use this word at all? Does it mean anything if two people can have totally different understandings of it?

See my page on "appropriate"

Calm Down

One person who saw what happened to Carol said the police didn't even try to talk to her, ask her what was wrong or tell her to calm down. I suggest that asking her what was wrong would have been healthy for her, but not telling her to calm down. I find people calm down much more quickly and completely when someone is really listening to them.

See Invalidation

Resisting Arrest

In the interview of the police captain, or whoever it was, the reporter asked if she were "resisting arrest". The police authority said yes and used this as justification for the the way the officers tackled her and handcuffed her. They seem to think that we should not feel our instinctive feelings to get away from someone trying to control and hurt us. Locking us up is hurting us because it deprives us of our freedom. I am sure Carol felt afraid, if not terrified of the officers and of being locked up. She was already upset because she had missed her flight. She felt out of control and being arrested and restrained would make her feel even less in control. So to me, resisting arrest is absolutely normal and no one should be punished for it.

Those with power seem to want the rest of us to simply not have our feelings, or any feelings which interfere with what they want us to do and how they want us to behave.

In some cases they make it illegal to even verbally express our feelings in any ways they believe is "inappropriate", such as the sign in one police office that said something like profane language will not be allowed.

Autopsy Conducted in Carol Anne Gotbaum's Mysterious Death in Handcuffs


The family of Carol Anne Gotbaum hoped an autopsy in Phoenix Tuesday would shed more light on how the mother of three died while handcuffed in a police holding cell, after an outburst at the airport led to her arrest for disorderly conduct.

The Maricopa Medical Examiner's office said the examination — which was conducted Tuesday morning with a family member present — would last at least two hours. There was no word on results by afternoon, but the autopsy could determine how a trip to an alcohol rehab facility ended in death for the 45-year-old New Yorker. Toxicology and other tests might be needed to reach a final conclusion about what happened.

A man who said he was an eyewitness to the scene at Sky Harbor International Airport in Phoenix told the local FOX station there that Gotbaum repeatedly screamed, "I'm not a terrorist!" into a cell phone after gate crews refused to let her aboard her Tucson, Ariz.-bound flight on Friday, reportedly because of her late arrival.

The witness, who spoke on condition of anonymity, said that Gotbaum became so upset that she threw her phone down and broke it. Others in the airport were alarmed and rattled by her behavior, according to the witness.

On Monday, Gotbaum's stepmother-in-law Betsy Gotbaum, New York City's public advocate, issued a statement saying the family believes Carol Anne seems to have been "manhandled" by Phoenix police during her arrest — and that might have contributed to her mysterious death.

"Carol, who was only 5'7" tall and 105 pounds, appears to have been manhandled by the Phoenix Police Department," Betsy Gotbaum said in a statement released Monday afternoon.

"She was a loving and devoted mother of three children under the age of nine who was on her way to an alcohol rehabilitation facility to seek treatment for herself. She cried out for help at the airport, but her pleas appear to have been met by mistreatment."

Phoenix authorities told FOXNews.com that the Gotbaums have the right to their opinions but didn't address the specific accusations the family made about how police treated Gotbaum in custody.

"They're entitled to express whatever they want. They’re grieving; we understand that," said Phoenix police spokesman Sgt. Andy Hill. "However, the investigation will reveal what happened, and that’s what we’re waiting for."

Gotbaum was taken into custody for disorderly conduct Friday at Sky Harbor International Airport after reportedly becoming irate and out of control when she couldn’t get on her flight.

Several witnesses reported that Gotbaum was “yelling and screaming and running around the concourse” before Phoenix police stationed on-site got there, according to Hill. The two officers who arrived on the scene were unsuccessful in calming her down, so they handcuffed her and took her to a holding cell in their bureau at the airport.

Gotbaum continued to scream and yell in the department holding cell — where she was locked up alone, according to Hill. When she stopped shouting after about five or 10 minutes, officers became concerned, checked on her and found her unresponsive, he said. Efforts to revive her failed.

“No one knows what happened yet. All I know is the way she was found,” Hill told FOXNews.com.

He said Gotbaum was discovered with her arms raised and her handcuffs “pressed up against her neck area,” adding that it’s not unusual for people in wrist shackles at the back to maneuver their hands around to the front.

Officers didn’t use a Taser or pepper spray in Gotbaum’s arrest, according to police, and policy prohibits video cameras in holding cells — so there were no eyewitnesses to her death.

“According to investigators, it appeared as though Ms. Gotbaum had possibly tried to manipulate the handcuffs from behind her to the front, got tangled up in the process, and they ended up around her neck area,” Hill wrote in the police press release on the incident.

“She went into medical distress, where she lost consciousness. Again, this is a possible explanation only from investigators, and the medical examiner will have to make a determination as to the manner and cause of death.”

It wasn’t immediately known whether Gotbaum was under the influence of alcohol, illegal drugs or other medication or whether she suffered from any conditions aside from alcoholism.

Betsy Gotbaum said Sunday that her stepdaughter-in-law was “sweet and kind and loving.”

The Gotbaum family hired high-profile lawyer Michael Manning to do his own investigation into Carol Anne's death. Manning, who represented the U.S. government against failed savings and loan executive Charles Keating, has won settlements against Maricopa County Sheriff Joe Arpaio in past wrongful-death lawsuits.

He said the family hasn't decided whether to sue Phoenix police.

"We're not going to jump to any conclusions without any evidence," he said. "We want to see what the autopsy reveals. We want to see what exactly happened to her."

The Associated Press contributed to this report.





Also at 11, we are awaiting the autopsy results on Carol Gotbaum, the stepdaughter-in-law of New York City Public Advocate Betsy Gotbaum. Carol Gotbaum, a mother of three and a resident of the Upper West Side in Manhattan, died in the custody of police in Phoenix, Arizona. It happened Friday night; the family just disclosed yesterday afternoon that Gotbaum was on her way to an alcohol rehab in Tucson -- a short flight from Phoenix.

Apparently she missed her flight and became angry. That started a ruckus and she was detained. She was handcuffed and left alone; cops say during that time she tried to move her bound hands from behind her back to in front. She apparently strangled herself in the process, although the autopsy will tell us for sure.

(Why is it that some autopsies take a day, while others take weeks?)

I talked to someone who saw Gotbaum drop off her kids at school Friday morning, and they said she seemed quite normal, whatever that really means. We all live inner lives, with our own secrets that are rarely shared with others. It's a sad story at best. But if the police mishandled the situation, as her family now clearly believes (they've hired a lawyer, and have stated she was 'manhandled'), then more will come out. Betsy Gotbaum, a possible candidate for Mayor, is a strong, assertive person. Throw in her role as stepmother, and she is not one to let go until the truth will out.



PHOENIX -- A woman who died after being handcuffed and detained at the Phoenix airport was on her way to an alcohol rehabilitation program in Tucson, her family said Monday, accusing police of manhandling her during the ordeal.

Carol Anne Gotbaum, 45, became angry when a gate crew didn't let her on the plane.

Officers handcuffed her behind her back and took her to a holding room, where she kept screaming, authorities said.

Betsy Gotbaum, the victim's stepmother-in-law who also is New York City's public advocate, also is dismayed over initial reports about the case.

Carol Gotbaum "appears to have been manhandled by the Phoenix Police Department," Gotbaum said. "She cried out for help at the airport, but her pleas appear to have been met by mistreatment."




She was late for a plane. She started yelling. She was taken into police custody.

She was handcuffed. She was put in a cell.

And then she was dead.

Yes, there is an explanation for what happened, but it’s a shocker given the fact that she was the mother of three young children, from a prominent New York City family, and she’s said to have died in a way that will raise some eyebrows until the autopsy is done — or perhaps if the matter winds up in court as part of a lawsuit:

Phoenix police were investigating Sunday how a 45-year-old woman died over the weekend while in police custody at Phoenix’s Sky Harbor International Airport.

Carol Ann Gotbaum may have accidentally strangled herself while trying to get out of her handcuffs, Phoenix Police Department spokesman Sgt. Andy Hill said Saturday.

“According to investigators, it appeared as though Ms. Gotbaum had possibly tried to manipulate the handcuffs from behind her to the front, got tangled up in the process, and they ended up around her neck area,” he said.

Note the journalistic hedging. The use of the word “may” is in the report because that explanation is not perceived as being confirmed yet.

Witnesses told police that Gotbaum was “yelling and screaming” and running through the terminal Friday. She was arrested for disorderly conduct.

While handcuffed, the New Yorker became “disruptive” and she was taken to a holding room, where she was left alone, Hill told CNN affiliate KTVK.

Investigators said officers went to check on her five to 10 minutes later. Police policy requires that be done every 15 minutes.

Finding Gotbaum “unconscious and not breathing,” Hill said, officers performed CPR.

“Sometime during the time she went into custody, she went into medical distress,” he said.
She had three young children and was longtime New York City Public Advocate Betsy Gotbaum’s daughter in law.

The New York Daily News has some details of the arrest (read the article in its entirety) such as:

The daughter-in-law of one of New York’s top officials screamed, “I’m not a terrorist!” and fought with security officials in the Phoenix airport before being wrestled to the ground and handcuffed, witnesses told the Daily News yesterday.

Carol Anne Gotbaum, 45, of the upper West Side, died less than an hour later, after cops claim she apparently strangled herself while trying to escape from the handcuffs in a holding cell at Phoenix Sky Harbor International Airport.

“I’m not a terrorist! I’m a sick mom! I need help!” yelled the mother of three after she missed the 2:58 p.m. US Airways Express flight to Tucson, said airport workers who witnessed the confrontation Friday.

They said one cop put his knee in her back to restrain her while others grabbed her flailing arms.

USA Today:

A late-arriving passenger become irate with airline workers was arrested at Phoenix Sky Harbor International and then died while in police custody. Police believe the woman –- 45-year-old Carol Ann Gotbaum -– may have accidentally strangled herself while trying to escape from her handcuffs, which held her hands behind her back. Media accounts say police had to be called after Gotbaum become angry after she was denied boarding for her US Airways flight after she arrived at the gate past the flight’s boarding cutoff.

The Arizona Republic writes “she was rebooked on the next flight, but witnesses told police that Gotbaum got irate and began running through the terminal. Officers said they were unable to calm Gotbaum, so they arrested her and placed her in an individual holding room.” She apparently forcefully resisted being handcuffs and screamed continually while in the holding room,” according to the Republic. Officers went to check on Gotbaum after the screaming stopped and found her “unresponsive,” according to The Associated Press, which adds that medics were not able to revive her. Authorities say neither a Taser stun gun nor pepper spray were used in the incident.

The New York Post reports that Phoenix police say they’re shocked:

“In my 23 years, I have not come across something like this before,” said Sgt. Andy Hill, a Phoenix police spokesman.

The way she died means this story will have “legs” for awhile until there is complete confirmation of a) the cause of death b) whether this kind of contortion is possible. And the family is hiring a lawyer:

Betsy Gotbaum would not say why Carol Anne, the wife of her stepson, was in Phoenix or answer other questions about her.

“Carol was a wonderful, wonderful person. She was a wonderful mother. She was sweet, kind and loving,” Gotbaum told reporters across the street from her Manhattan apartment building.

“This is a horrible tragedy for my family - for my stepson and my three grandchildren,” she added. “This is obviously very, very difficult for us. We are dealing with it as best we can.”

The family is hiring a lawyer in Phoenix to look into the matter, a source close to the family said last night.

And the status of the family ensures this is a case that will not simply be entered into the police blotter but will be looked at very closely by not only the attorney but by news media in New York and elsewhere.

The dead woman was the wife of investor Noah Gotbaum. And Noah Gotbaum is the son of Victor Gotbaum, 86, one of New York’s most influential labor leaders.

And there will be other reasons why this story will be a huge print and broadcast story as well because American culture and the imprinting of images isn’t what it was 30 years ago. So, across the nation, some eyebrows — rightfully or wrongfully — are going to be raised.

Americans have now seen more than a decade of Cops TV shows so they’ve watched “take downs” of clear offenders, or a few cases that seemed marginal. American culture is now impacted by the fact of life of heavy security at airports and the fact it’s no nonsense. Most people (unless you’re a student with a fake bomb taped to your chest) realize you don’t joke around in airports or give officials trouble.

And America and young people are also impacted by event such as the Florida student being tasered, that show that there are instances where the “swarm” technique seemingly escalates things.

So it’s a story that will be covered intently for a while — and scrutinized in painstaking detail by the media which knows there is huge interest…and scrutinized in painstaking detail by attorneys who will seek to determine precisely what led to a mother of three young children who lost it in an airport to wind up dead due to handcuffs in a jail cell.


The Phoenix Police Department released this statement in response to Noah's remarks:

"We respect the Gotbaum family's right to ask for answers and express their grief," said Sgt. Andy Hill, who called Gotbaum's death "a tragic incident which saddened us all."

The facts will come out in the investigation, he added.

"The surveillance video revealed the unsuccessful attempts by witnesses and officers to calm Ms. Gotbaum. The life-saving efforts of the police officers involved clearly demonstrated their concern for Ms. Gotbaum."

Mesa Air Group spokesman Paul Skellon declined to comment on Wednesday. Mesa Air Group operates the US Airways Express flight to Tucson under contract with US Airways.

Carol Gotbaum was arrested for disorderly conduct in Terminal 4. She was on her way to a Tucson alcohol-rehab program but missed her flight. When a gate agent told her that she couldn't use another passenger's boarding pass to get on a flight because of security reasons, she began screaming that she wasn't a terrorist and ran through the airport.

In the recording at the funeral released by the family, the couple's rabbi also defended Carol Gotbaum's decision to travel alone.

On Sunday, hundreds of mourners gathered to remember Carol Gotbaum.

Rabbi Robert Levine appeared to address critics who have questioned why Gotbaum traveled alone.

Carol was traveling alone because she wanted her husband, Noah, to look after their children, said Levine, senior rabbi at Congregation Rodeph Sholom, the synagogue where Gotbaum's memorial service was held.

"She was fiercely independent and private and believed strongly, as did the rest of the family, that she could do this on her own, that she wanted to do this on her own," Levine said. "So let us go forth and end the judgments."

At least one family spokesman, Howard Rubenstein, has said that Gotbaum attempted suicide, and the Gotbaums' attorney has confirmed that Carol Gotbaum battled alcoholism for three years.

In other developments, the Gotbaum family's attorney is gathering telephone records connected with the case and waiting for the county's autopsy results.

The Gotbaum family has hired a team of experts to conduct its own investigation. On Wednesday, they were analyzing Noah Gotbaum's telephone records and piecing together the sequence of events on Sept. 28, the day his wife died. He made several calls to his wife at the airport and to the airport's call center.

The Maricopa County Medical Examiner's Office said it could be weeks before an official cause of death is determined.

The family is also waiting for the medical examiner to release the rest of Carol Gotbaum's remains, said Michael Manning, the family's attorney. The 45-year-old's heart, brain and parts of her throat were not turned over to the family.