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‘I’m Not Jumping In:’ Bodycam Footage Reveals Police Stood By As Man Drowned While Begging For Help

Photo: Youtube
bodycam footage, Sean Bickings

In released bodycam footage and transcripts, three police officers appear to refuse to save a homeless man from drowning after he jumps into the lake.

Sean Bickings, 34, died after jumping into Tempe Town Lake on May 28. Police were initially called to the scene after Bickings got into a reported disturbance with his wife.

Arizona police are under investigation after Bickings drowned in Tempe Town Lake.

Officers were called to the Elmore Pedestrian Bridge around 5 a.m. in response to the disturbance, where officials said they spoke to Bickings and his wife, who cooperated with authorities and denied any physical altercation had taken place.

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“At that point, the officers don’t really have a reason to be there,” Andy Anderson, a former assistant chief with Phoenix Police, told 12 News, adding that someone with a mental health background should've been there to help. 

The officers then told Bickings and his wife they were going to run their names through the database to check if they had any outstanding warrants.

The check had not yet been completed when Bickings began climbing over a 4-foot metal fence and entered the lake.

Bickings can be heard telling the police: "I'm going for a swim. I'm free to go, right?"

Police responded to Bickings, telling him that he wasn't allowed to enter the lake while he was already standing on the other side of the fence. He eventually jumped in, and is seen swimming away from the shore while one of the officers is heard saying: "How far do you think he is going to be able to swim?"

Officials said that the remaining footage of Bickings' drowning was too “sensitive," so a partial written transcript of the bodycam was released instead.

The bodycam transcript reveals that Bickings and his wife asked for police to help.

In the transcript of the footage, Bickings begs the officers to "help me" and repeatedly tells them that he is "going to drown."

“So what’s your plan right now?” one of the officers asks Bickings, to which he responded: "I'm going to drown."

That same officer quickly dismissed his concerns, saying, "no, you're not."

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Another officer tells Bickings to "at least go the pylon and hang on."

Bickings repeats to the officers that he can't swim any longer because he is drowning, to which they tell him, "I'm not jumping in after you."

Both Bickings and his wife reportedly begged the officers to save him. "Please help me. Please, please, please," Bickings pleaded, according to the transcript.

"He's drowning right in front of you and you won't help," Bickings' wife tells police. 

Bickings eventually went under the water and did not resurface. At least one officer tried to get a boat, but it was unclear if a water rescue team had been working that morning.

It was around 11:20 a.m. when Tempe Police and Fire began to search for Bickings, before finding and pulling his body from the lake.

"This is not a lake patrol team that has the equipment to do a water rescue, these are street cops," Anderson said.

In a statement, officials shared that the three officers who responded to the scene and witnessed the drowning were placed "on non-disciplinary paid administrative leave pending the investigation."

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Nia Tipton is a writer living in Brooklyn. She covers pop culture, social justice issues, and trending topics. Keep up with her on Instagram and Twitter.

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