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Security Theater

2007-10-02 18:52:10.091135+00 by ebradway 9 comments

Today, on Security Theater, we present a curious murder mystery: a 45-year-old mother, after getting irate at airport security after not being allowed to board her plane, was hand-cuffed with arms behind her back and shackled to a bench in a detention cell. She was later found strangled to death. Police are claiming suicide.

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comments in ascending chronological order (reverse):

#Comment Re: made: 2007-10-02 19:13:00.97344+00 by: meuon [edit history]

I can't find the appropriate words to convey how upsetting this is. I don't care how hysterical she was, this was not an acceptable end-result. It won't bring her back. but I hope that the truth comes out clearly, and that changes in how such things are handled result. This might include better shackling/handcuffing so that a person can't hurt themselves by accident/intent. I also hope that if someone harmed her, intentionally, that no quarter is given to that person(s). In a country and specifially a facility where "we" spend insane amounts of money on security systems, why was there not a camera and recorder in the detention cell?

(edit: I see in other stories that camera's aren't allowed.. Hmm..)

#Comment Re: made: 2007-10-02 20:01:52.348081+00 by: JT [edit history]

I've heard a number of things about this woman over the past few days, everything from how she was a wonderful woman and caring mother to the daughter-in-law of a celebrity and an irate alcoholic with mental health problems on her way to rehab.

I think I'll have to reserve my opinions about these matters until more is released to the general public. I really think there's either not enough information available about the incident or too many members of the press trying to squeeze their opinions into the blank spots.

#Comment Re: made: 2007-10-02 20:28:37.118931+00 by: ebradway

It doesn't matter what kind of person she was. Even if she was a convicted murderer, there's no reason she should have died in that situation.

The sketchiest part of the affair is that the police claimed she was found strangled with her own hands at her throat. It's actually impossible to strangle yourself in this manner. Once you lose consciousness, you'll also lose your grip on your throat and start breathing again.

#Comment Re: made: 2007-10-02 20:33:09.125505+00 by: JT

Under natural circumstances, yes, it's impossible to strangle yourself. I can't do it with hinged handcuffs, but I can pull chain handcuffs from behind my back to the front of my body. When I do that, I have to pull one arm over my head, bend my head down, and push my elbow over the side of my head toward my opposite shoulder.

I'm effectively putting myself in a "sleeper hold" for a few seconds while I work my arm around the other way. Even if I were to pass out, the fact that my arms were bent in that position against the side of my neck would still be holding pressure.

The part which doesn't make sense to me is that she was shackled to a bench when she did this. I have to get in strange positions to get them over my head, and everyone who's done it in the back of my patrol car was on their back and rocking to get them around to the front, which I just can't see happening if you're shackled to a fixed object.

I don't know the situation, I can see how it's possible, and see how it's illogical at the same time, but without enough information to pass judgment, I think I'm going to err on the side of caution and just go with "I don't know" at the moment, at least until more reports and/or an autopsy is made public.

#Comment Re: made: 2007-10-02 20:56:30.548072+00 by: meuon

That's why one of my points above is changing the way she was restrained so that she could NOT have injured herself. If she tried to pull a "Houdini" and get her cuffs in front, I can see how it'd be self-inflicted, but I'll contend that she should have been restrained differently if she was that hysterical.

It's why they use straightjackets, and other such forms of restraint. Not cruelty, not necessarily control (but it helps), but to keep un-manageable people from hurting themselves. In her case, she probably should not have been left alone, but who wants to sit with the screaming lady?

#Comment Re: made: 2007-10-02 21:33:16.177673+00 by: JT

You can't actually put a straight jacket on someone without a directive from a physician. Unless it's an extreme emergency, you're not allowed to use more than average approved restraints on someone who's arrested. One of those things is called a Belly Belt which keeps handcuffs next to someone's body, either front or back, but I've never known a policeman to carry them unless they worked in corrections. This would have prohibited someone from attempting to get the handcuffs on the front of their body. I'm sure if they would have known ahead of time, something similar would have been done or someone would have had to sit in the room with her.

As it stands, policy was that she had to be checked on every 15 minutes according to the TSA standards for airport security at Phoenix Skyharbor. She stopped screaming after 10 according to the guards, they checked on her, and she was found unconscious.

On a side note, I've heard of people who were without air for 30 minutes or more and were still brought back with no long-term effects. If the span of time between being placed in the room and calling for medical was 10 minutes and she was unable to be brought back with CPR, I'm thinking there's other factors involved that just haven't come into light yet. Maybe it was some chemical issue that was causing her to be irate and running around in the airport yelling. Maybe the alcohol rehab was a tad more than for just alcohol. Of course, that falls into the "kind of person" category which may have an effect on her physiologically. Again though, these facts aren't present, so I'm still sticking with "I dunno" as my official opinion.

#Comment Re: Responsibility made: 2007-10-02 22:18:54.99889+00 by: m

When an individual is taken into custody the arresting authority takes on moral and legal responsibility to assure the well being of that person. That individuals become depressed, suicidal, or attempt to escape, is a predictable outcome of the imprisonment process. The "offical" excuse for this death sounds more than a bit unlikely. The victim could have been a gymnast or a practitioner of yoga, but how many middle aged individuals have the flexibility required to achieve self strangulation?

But, but she was an alcoholic, and maybe worse. "That kind of person" -- what can you expect. Just like the claims that Abner Louima's colon and bladder were destroyed when he engaged in rough gay sex. It was a more than rough gay rape with a stick. Maybe the woman was bored while waiting in detention, and engaged in auto-erotic self asphyxiation? Yeah, thats it. She was masturbating and strangling herself, and just went a little too far. But after all, what can you expect from "that kind of person"?

#Comment Re: made: 2007-10-03 00:23:55.60393+00 by: Dan Lyke

I believe that those who've been successfully resuscitated after half an hour or so were generally in some sort of hypothermic situation (ie: drowing in iced over lake).

#Comment Re: made: 2007-10-03 01:46:41.244938+00 by: JT

Depending on which article you read outlines the story as to how the events happened. This one even says "An autopsy is scheduled for this morning. Sources told the Daily News the preliminary cause of death is positional asphyxiation." which indicates that the position of her hands had nothing to do with her demise. Some articles say "Hill said officers in a room next to the cell checked on her about 10 minutes later when she stopped screaming and found her unresponsive." which implies she stopped screaming and they went right in. Yet others say "About 10 minutes after leaving the woman in a holding cell, police found her unconscious and with "handcuffs up by her neck area." which sounds like they just left her there for 10 solid minutes with no checking.

That last article also explains how you can strangle yourself with handcuffs. On that note, still other articles also explain more about the "type" of person she was by putting in information such as "The Post also reports that Gotbaum was "emotionally volatile" for years. A police report from November 2006 noted cops responded to a 44-year-old woman who tried to overdose on pills in their West 95th Street home and that recently Gotbaum "tried to kill herself in an unknown manner."" which seems to indicate she may have been trying to take her own life.