Three Arizona police officers have been placed on “non-disciplinary paid administrative leave” after they watched a man drown in a Tempe lake and didn’t bother trying to save his life, NPR reports. Authorities say they’re investigating what exactly went down, but it seems pretty clear to everyone else.
- Tempe police responded to a disturbance call just after 5 a.m. Once arriving at the Tempe Center for the Arts, they found 34-year-old Sean Bickings and a companion. Officers apparently spoke to Bickings, who was described as an “unsheltered Tempe community member” while they ran his name and his companion’s through a database that searched for outstanding warrants.
- Bickings took off soon after. At one point, he climbed a metal fence and went down an embankment before jumping into Tempe Town Lake to swim, body cam footage shows. As Bickings began struggling in the water, the bodycam footage cut out (conveniently), but the city provided a transcript of what transpired after.
- Bickings told the officers he was drowning. One of the officers tells Bickings to swim to a pilon but Bickings responds that he can’t do that. Instead of jumping into action, the officer then tells him: “Okay, I’m not jumping in after you.” Bickings then says: “I can’t touch. Oh God. Please help me. Help me.” However, no help came. Instead, the officers stood by and let Bickings drown.
- An inquiry is now underway into what happened. The Tempe Police Department is investigating Bickings’ death, and the findings will also be reviewed by the Arizona Department of Public Safety. A separate investigation of how the police responded is underway by the Scottsdale Police Department. City Manager Andrew Ching and Police Chief Jeff Glover called Bickings’ death a “tragedy.” More portions of the body camera video are said to be on dock for release later this week, though authorities say they will heavily edit it “due to its graphic, sensitive nature.”