New bodycam footage shows the moments that led up to an Arizona man drowning in a lake, as officers allegedly stood by and ignored his pleas for help.
Police responded to a call about a disturbance between a couple in the area of the Elmore Pedestrian Bridge in Tempe on May 28. 12 News reports that one of the people jumped into the Tempe Town Lake. As officers arrived after 5 a.m., the couple denied having any physical issues despite the call.
As shown in the video, 34-year-old Sean Bickings climbed a four-foot fence and jumped in the body of water after police said they were running their names to see if they had any outstanding warrants, as he told officers he was “going for a swim.” He was not detained, but officers advised him against doing so and asked him to return “back over to the pylon.”
One officer in the clip asked, “How far do you think he is going to be able to swim?”
After swimming between 30 and 40 yards, Bickings could be heard on the footage saying he was “drowning” and pleading for help from the officers. One officer said they were “not jumping in after you,” as Bickings’ partner said she was “distraught” because the police “won’t help.” An officer then threatened to put her in a police car, per the audio, as footage of the drowning reportedly cuts out due to its sensitivity.
At least one officer reportedly attempted to get a boat, per 12 News, but Bickings did not resurface from the water and his body was recovered around 11:20 a.m. by Tempe Police and Fire.
“This is not a lake patrol team that has the equipment to do a water rescue, these are street cops,” said Andy Anderson, a former assistant chief with Phoenix Police.
The three officers on the scene have been placed on paid administrative leave pending the investigation. Scottsdale Police and the Department of Public Safety are investigating the drowning.