Friday, October 05, 2007

An Unknown Tragedy

Woman Arrested in Airport and later died in police custody

When I look at this video, the first thing I notice is that you can't see what the woman is doing to cause a commotion. No one's looking at her; people are walking by her with their suitcases; suddenly we see a couple of cops approach her and talk to her. This quickly turns into one grabbing her right arm, one her left arm, and before you know it, she's face down on the floor.

You'll also note that it takes about four officers to "subdue" her, before she's raised to her feet, in handcuffs, and taken off to "wherever" - likely a cruiser waiting outside. I also note with interest, how many airport security guards stood around and watched the police "arrest" her.

With no knowledge of what "disorderly" conduct the woman was doing at the time of her arrest (that was the reason given for her arrest), we can't tell if she was "high", intoxicated, suffering from a diabetic or epiletic seizure, or other health problem. That she was only in police cells for 6 to 8 minutes, allegedly yelling her head off, and it was only when things got quiet that a cop went to investigate why she'd suddenly shut up, is a very small amount of time to transpire.

The fact that officers were in the vicinity but not looking directly at her contravenes just about every normal police department protocol I've ever heard of - even back in 1984 we stationed an officer on a chair, within 3 feet of the person in the cell, in order to assure their safety. Later, video cameras where set up in the cell block, so that officers were protected from legal action in cases that were "he said/he said".

This report makes no mention of a video camera being used, and that is in itself suspicious. A police department the size of Phoenix should be able to afford video cameras, and not doubt the family's lawyer is busy asking the hard questions.

This should never have happened, and regardless of what life-saving measures were taken to save her, the autopsy results should prove interesting.

Having been an officer wearing a blue uniform and having to cuff a suspect facedown on the floor, I know that it frequently takes four or more people to subdue someone who doesn't want to be arrested. Did they check her over for health issues *before* putting her in the cell? Was she searched properly to see if she carried pills, small items to choke on like paper clips, pins, gum, small pieces of paper (you'd be surprised what people will swallow to bring attention to themselves) get the idea. My guess is neither was done, or not done well or according to procedure.

On the other side of the equasion, the officers involved will all be suffering from shock and fear concerning what happened. In a case like this, there are no good answers, and only the tragic early death of a woman who didn't even look like she needed to be arrested in the first place. Was she screaming obscenities? The video doesn't let us hear that - was she delirious? Delusional? Hallucinating?

If you ever use a similar situation in a MS, you can be sure that the human element of inaction, over-emotion, negligence, or officers relying on others to do what they should be doing in the first place, are all things that are realistic. On the other side, the fear and "what could I have done?" haunt most officers that find themselves in such a situation.

For the "suspect" who dies, their final moments haven't been seen, but we can only add our imaginations to what might have been, what did happen, and what should've happened.

Rest in Peace, Carol Anne...


Winter said...

There is new info from her husband saying he tried repeatedly to get in contact with the arresting officers to tell them she was on her way to a hopsital to get help for depression and alcohol abuse.

The question raised, why in the world if she had problems, was she alone?

I feel this wasn't a case of accidental strangulation. She had to have something in her body, or on her to kill her.

Toni Anderson said...

What a terrible situation. How sad.

Laurie said...

I agree with you, Winter. She should never have been alone "on her way to the hospital", and likely her autopsy toxicology screening will display a possible overdose of drugs and alcohol. Many drugs don't interact well, and people can mistakenly take them with dire results.