PHOENIX (AP) – A woman who died after being handcuffed and detained at Phoenix Sky Harbor International Airport was on her way to an alcohol rehabilitation program in Tucson, her family’s lawyer said Monday.

“I can’t confirm that she had alcoholism, but that certainly is my assumption,” said Michael Manning, who was hired by Carol Anne Gotbaum’s family over the weekend to monitor the police investigation.

The woman who died was the stepdaughter-in-law of New York City Public Advocate Betsy Gotbaum.

“We are not jumping to any conclusions, but the circumstances surrounding Carol’s death appear to be unusual enough to raise serious questions and warrant a thorough investigation,” Betsy Gotbaum said in a statement.

“Carol, who was only 5 foot 7 and 105 pounds, appears to have been manhandled by the Phoenix Police Department.

“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,” said Betsy Gotbaum.

Carole Gotbaum, 45, became irate on Friday when she was late for a flight and a gate crew didn’t let her on the plane. Officers handcuffed her behind her back and took her to the holding room, where she kept screaming, authorities said.

Manning told The Associated Press that he plans to send a representative to watch the county medical examiner’s autopsy of Gotbaum’s body today.

He’ll conduct his own inquiry as to whether police followed proper procedure.

Manning, a high-profile lawyer who represented the government against failed savings and loan executive Charles Keating, has previously won settlements against Sheriff Joe Arpaio in wrongful death lawsuits. He said the family hasn’t decided whether it should file a lawsuit against 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. We know that Phoenix PD requires somebody in this condition be observed and checked at least every 15 minutes. We don’t know that that happened.”

Police spokesman Sgt. Andy Hill said officers checked on Gotbaum regularly while she was detained. During one of the checks, officers found Gotbaum unconscious with her hands “pressed against her neck area,” Hill said.

“We don’t know why or how she did it, but you have to assume that when someone is handcuffed behind their back that most probably she brought them from underneath herself and back up high.”

Hill said officers followed established policy while detaining Gotbaum. He added that police procedures for arresting someone at the airport haven’t changed since the Sept. 11, 2001 terrorist attacks.

“Everything, so far that we know, is according to policy,” Hill said.

Manning said it doesn’t seem possible that Gotbaum could have killed herself.

“It doesn’t make any sense,” he said. “She was handcuffed behind her back and shackled to a table. It doesn’t make sense that she could have physically managed to strangle herself.”

AP-ES-10-01-07 1548EDT


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