State and local officials are investigating the death of a man in Tempe, Arizona who drowned while cops watched nearby. The officers were responding to a call about an alleged dispute between Sean Bickings, 34, and his companion before he drowned. The city described him as “unsheltered. The police released body cam footage of the tragedy showing the man begging officers for help as they calmly stood by and watched him die. For now, the three officers involved have been placed on leave while the situation is investigated.
According to a statement released by the City of Tempe, around 5 a.m. on May 28, Tempe Police cops found Bickings and a woman at a reservoir near a pedestrian bridge. The statement said both Bickings and his partner denied any physical violence had occurred, and neither of them were under arrest.
Body Camera Footage Shows Man & Officers Conversing While He Drowned
Body cam footage of the tragedy has since been released, showing Bickings submerging himself in the water after conversing with the cops who warned him he couldn’t swim there. In the 11-minute video, Bickings called out for the three cops to help immediately after he jumped in.
An officer then tells him to swim to a pylon, but Bickings says he can’t. One of the cops says, “okay, I’m not jumping in after you,” according to the transcript of the incident police released. At that point, Bickings’ companion pleads with the cops to help him because she knows he can’t swim.
“He is all I got. He is going to die. I can’t lose him.”
Cops finally called for a water rescue team and requested help from the fire department, according to the transcript. Unfortunately, by that time the water had silenced Bickings’ cries for help.
The city said the three Tempe police officers have been placed on non-disciplinary paid administrative leave pending the investigations. They described the temporary leave as “customary” practice in critical incidents.