Woman's bizarre airport death probed

This undated family photo provided by the Office of the Public Advocate for the City of New York shows Carol Anne Gotbaum. Gotbaum, 45, was found dead in a police holding cell in Phoenix, Ariz. on Friday, Sept. 28, 2007, where she had been taken in handcu
This undated family photo provided by the Office of the Public Advocate for the City of New York shows Carol Anne Gotbaum. Gotbaum, 45, was found dead in a police holding cell in Phoenix, Ariz. on Friday, Sept. 28, 2007, where she had been taken in handcu

PHOENIX, AZ (CBS/AP) -- 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's lawyer said Monday.

Carol Anne Gotbaum, 45, became irate 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 a holding room, where she kept screaming, authorities said.

Gotbaum was wrestled to the ground as she fought back, reports CBS News correspondent Meg Oliver. She was subdued, handcuffed, and led away screaming, "I am not a terrorist!"

Phoenix police Sgt. Andy Hill told CBS' The Early Show people were telling police that a woman was yelling and screaming and running around the concourse.

"That certainly was, you know, outrageous behavior, and that's why we responded and she ended up getting arrested, yes," said Hill, who offered his condolences to the Gotbaum family.

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.

Attorney Michael Manning, who was hired by Gotbaum's family to monitor the police investigation, said it doesn't seem possible she 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."

Manning plans to send a representative to watch the county medical examiner's autopsy of Gotbaum's body Tuesday. He'll conduct his own inquiry as to whether police followed proper procedure.

Gotbaum, the mother of three, was the daughter-in-law of New York City's longtime public advocate, Betsy Gotbaum.

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."

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.

Posted by LS

CBS and Associated Press contributed to this report.