Three Tempe police officers who watched a man drown in an Arizona lake late last month have been placed on ‘non-disciplinary paid administrative leave’ as multiple law enforcement agencies investigate what happened .
City officials say officers responded to a call about a disturbance just after 5 a.m. outside the Tempe Center for the Arts, where they found Sean Bickings, 34, and his companion.
Officers were talking to an uncuffed Bickings – who officials described as an “unprotected Tempe community member” – as they scanned his and his companion’s name into a database to check for outstanding warrants, authorities said.
It was then that Bickings scaled a metal fence, descended an embankment and began swimming in the Tempe Town lake, police body camera footage from one of the officers shows.
Footage is cut before Bickings begins struggling in the water, but the city provided a transcript of the video from there.
“I’m drowning,” Bickings says.
An officer tells him to swim to a pylon, but Bickings says he can’t.
“Okay, I’m not jumping after you,” the officer replies.
“I can’t touch. Oh my God. Please help me. Help me,” Bickings said moments later.
The Tempe Police Department is investigating Bickings’ death, an investigation that will also be reviewed by the Arizona Department of Public Safety. The Scottsdale Police Department is conducting a separate administrative review of how police responded.
City Manager Andrew Ching and Police Chief Jeff Glover called the drowning a “tragedy”. Police said Glover met with Bickings’ mother on Wednesday.
Authorities said they plan to release additional portions of the body camera video of the three responding officers this week. This footage will also be edited “due to its graphic and sensitive nature”, they said.
Tempe police and city officials say they are also reassessing their water response protocols, the equipment officers might need and the placement of lifesaving equipment on the plans. water.