Following an incident in which a 34-year-old homeless man drowned in a lake, three Tempe, Arizona police officers have been placed on administrative leave, with one officer telling the man he would not jump in to rescue him.
Sean Bickings, 34, died last weekend near the Elmore Pedestrian Bridge "after voluntarily entering the water and soon becoming unable to continue swimming," according to statements.
In bodycam footage Bickings’ can be seen climbing over a barrier and saying "I’m going to go for a swim, I’m free to go right?"
"You can’t swim in the lake, man," responds one of the officers.
Bickings is then seen swimming away into the water and then said "I’m going to drown, I’m going to drown."
One of the officers yells at the man to swim back to the pylon but Bickings says, "I can’t, I can’t."
"Okay, I’m not jumping in after you," another officer says,.
Witnesses said before entering the lake, Bickings "had been conversing, unhandcuffed, with the officers, who had responded to a call about an alleged fight between Bickings and his companion."
"That check had not yet been completed when Bickings decided to slowly climb over a 4-foot metal fence and enter the water. Officers informed him swimming is not allowed in the lake," the statement said. "He swam about 30-40 yards before repeatedly indicating he was in distress. He soon went under and did not resurface."
Tempe City Manager Andrew Ching and Police Chief Jeff Glover describe Bickings’ death as a "tragedy."
"The three Tempe police officers who responded to the call and witnessed the drowning have been placed on non-disciplinary paid administrative leave pending the investigations, as is customary in critical incidents," the statement continued.