Body-Cam: Police officer refuses to save drowning man

After the shooting at Uvalde, police received major criticism over their failure to respond to the threat of a mass-murderer. This incident involving a drowning man won’t help that negative pr.

A 34-year-old man who jumped in Tempe Town Lake to evade police drowned as three officers watched but failed to help, an Arizona police transcript shows. “I’m not jumping in after you,” an officer tells the man in a partial police transcript provided to Arizona’s Family and other news outlets, advising him to swim to a nearby pylon. “Please help me,” the man begs, according to the transcript. “Please please please.”

Sean Bickings drowned in the incident on Saturday, May 28, a Tempe city news release reported. The three police officers involved are on non-disciplinary suspension as an investigation continues, the release said.

Police responded to reports of a fight between Bickings and his wife at 5 a.m. local time, the release said. The couple cooperated and denied any altercation had taken place. Officers told the couple they were going to search police records for any warrants, and Bickings climbed over a 4-foot railing into the lake, the release said. Police told him he was not allowed to swim in the lake, but Bickings swam 30 to 40 yards before beginning to struggle, according to the release.

An officer asks him,” So what’s your plan right now?” and Bickings replies, “I’m going to drown. I’m going to drown,” the police transcript said.

The officer tells him he’s not drowning and suggests he swim to a pylon. Bickings says he can’t and pleads for help as the officers discuss calling for a boat. His wife asks them to save Bickings and officers advise her to encourage him to swim to shore. An officer tells her that if she doesn’t calm down, he’ll put her in his patrol car. “I’m just distraught because he’s drowning right in front of you and you won’t help,” she says.

The officers continued arguing with her after Bickings went under, the transcript shows. One officer told his wife: “The officer is going to get the boat right now,” according to the transcript. Bickings did not resurface, Tempe officials said in the release. His body was later recovered from the lake.

City Manager Andrew Ching and Police Chief Jeff Glover called his death “a tragedy” and Glover met with the man’s mother, the release said. The state Department of Public Safety and Scottsdale Police Department are investigating. Tempe is a city of 180,000 people southeast of Phoenix.

9 thoughts on “Body-Cam: Police officer refuses to save drowning man

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  1. Is proficiency in swimming required for Tempe police officers? If not, then why would it be a part of their duties to try to rescue someone who violated their orders and was able to swim 30 or 40 yards away before having issues? Perhaps a life preserver on a rope should have been available, or maybe Mr. Bickings should have listened to the officers.

  2. Anyone would have thought that after the man swam a ways he was able to swim back to shore and that claiming to be drowning was him just trying to get one of the officers to jump in and get wet…. He entered the water on his own and started swimming away so what’s it to think he was just show boating…. I wouldn’t have gone in after him either..

  3. The man probably was caught in an undertow caused by an underground spring. Any police coming to get him would have the same problem. Let this be a lesson to criminals that if they are going to escape by water, use a boat!

  4. That was a very cruel thing for those officers to do! I would sue the crap out of them civilly and against the department! That was so inhumane! Put me in the jury as that was wrong on so many levels! Disgusting officers! I hope the wife wins millions!

  5. He should have listened to the officers. No one told him to jump a fence/rail & jump in the water. Would you get in water if you can’t swim?? If he had warrants against him then he shouldn’t have been fighting with his wife & have the cops called on you. Sometimes you gotta take the high road & take your lick if you are wrong. Think before you react.

  6. AL LIBERAL COPS no wonder people give COPS a bad rap they watch Liberal Aholeps who wear a badge

  7. The easiest way to drown is to try to save someone who doesn’t want to be arrested. I would never go into unknown waters at 0500 to save a person running from authorities over a domestic alliteration. Why didn’t the wife jump in to save him? You reap what you sow.

  8. You can clearly hear the officer tell the man… hey you can’t swim in the lake. I have been down to that lake many times and that water is always moving at various speeds depending on the flow of water coming into it from the resevoir system which is fed by the Colorado River. You can also hear the bicycle officer clearly state that he is pretty sure that there are turbines somewhere which moves the water. This makes sense since it is indicated on wikipedia that the water is cleaned, filtered and recycled with a state of the art system. The only way you are allowed on the water is by boat. If there are turbines, then they have the power to create an undertow and suck him under which is probably what happened. If I was an officer, there is no way I would have gone in that lake at least not physically. Also, did you see how much gear those officers were carrying on their person… gun, baton, taser, handcuffs, and several reload magazines including a bullet protection vest. How long do you think it would take an officer to get out of all that gear along with his/her shoes and risk his or her life only to be drowned as well. Also, the section of water where they were located was pretty far from where they keep the row boats. Also, if you swallow any of that water, you will get sick from the algae and sediment floating around in there. One of the officers did call it in to dispatch and let them know that the subject had entered the water. Also, those officers are not equipped for search and rescue on water. I worked law enforcement in another state and if I was one of those officers I might have assessed the situation a little better upon arrival and maybe arrested them both on suspicion of public intoxication which may have saved his life that day. Nevertheless, that dude might as well have been standing on the roof of a high rise and jumped off right in front of the officers… Like what are you gonna do? One thing is clear they were both pretty incoherent. Nonetheless, you can’t jump into an artificial lake with a mechanical filtration system…that is why there is NO SWIMMING ALLOWED in that lake!

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