Phoenix officials rejected an $8 million wrongful-death claim from the family of Carol Gotbaum an hour after it was filed yesterday. The Arizona Republic says they issued a strongly worded letter laying the blame on her husband for letting the troubled New York woman fly to Arizona alone. Gotbaum, a 45-year-old mother of three, died in a Phoenix police holding cell at Sky Harbor International Airport last September after being taken into custody over a disturbance at a departure gate. The claim alleges that police violated national police procedures and their own internal rules by using “excessive and unreasonable force on Carol, as if she was a dangerous criminal, rather than as the sick, intoxicated and vulnerable person she was.” It alleges that Gotbaum was improperly cuffed.
Gotbaum was from an influential New York City family. Her mother-in-law is an elected official in New York City, and her father-in-law was a prominent labor leader. She was flying through Phoenix on her way to Tucson, where she had intended to enter an alcohol-rehabilitation facility. A medical examiner concluded that Gotbaum accidentally strangled herself with her restraints. Mayor Phil Gordon responded that officers followed the rules. “Her death is a tragedy, and our hearts go out to the family, but our officers did nothing wrong,” he said.