Man drowns as Arizona police watch: ‘I’m not jumping in after you’

cigaretteman

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Sean Bickings pleaded for help as he struggled to stay afloat in a reservoir in Tempe, Ariz., late last month. But Tempe police officers watched without intervening as Bickings went underwater and did not come back up, according to city officials and a transcript of body-camera footage.

“I’m going to drown. I’m going to drown,” said Bickings, 34, according to a transcript of video from the May 28 incident released by city officials.
“Okay, I’m not jumping in after you,” an officer, identified as Officer 1 in the transcript, said moments later, after directing Bickings to grab onto a bridge.
“Please help me,” Bickings said. “Please, please, please.”

Soon after, Bickings drowned, according to a Friday news release by city officials.
Now, three Tempe police officers have been put on “non-disciplinary paid administrative leave” as the Arizona Department of Public Safety and the Scottsdale Police Department investigate the officers’ response at the city of Tempe’s request, city officials said. The city has not released the names of the officers.

In a statement, Police Chief Jeff Glover and City Manager Andrew Ching called Bickings’s death a “tragedy.” Glover met with Bickings’s mother last week, according to officials.
The Tempe Officers Association, the city’s police union, did not immediately respond to a request for comment late Sunday.

Just after 5 a.m. on May 28, Tempe police officers responded to an apparent disturbance between Bickings and a woman at the Tempe Center for the Arts, which sits on a promenade along the Tempe Town Lake, a reservoir in the city. In its statement, the city referred to Bickings as “unsheltered.”
Body-camera footage released by the city shows officers approach and speak to a woman who identified herself as Bickings’s wife. As she picked up her belongings off the ground, she explained that she and Bickings sometimes have disagreements but said that he did not physically harm her.


Two of the officers then walked over to Bickings, who was seated on a bench facing the water, according to the body-camera footage. By this point, the officers were running the couple’s names for outstanding warrants, a standard procedure, according to the city. The police later said Bickings had three outstanding warrants, the Arizona Republic reported.

But those did not come up during Bickings’s encounter with police, according to the body-camera footage, which shows the officers trying to make small talk with Bickings as they ran the check.
That’s when Bickings slowly climbed over a short fence dividing the boardwalk and the water. When one of the officers asked what Bickings was doing, Bickings replied that he was going “for a swim.”
“I’m free to go, right?” Bickings asked.
The officers said he was not allowed to swim in the lake, but Bickings waded in and started swimming a freestyle stroke toward a bridge, according to the body-camera footage.










“How far do you think he’s going to be able to swim?” one of the officers asked, according to the footage.

Two of the officers then walked onto the bridge Bickings had swum under and watched him, according to the body-camera footage, which at that point ends “due to the sensitive nature of the remaining portion of the recording,” officials wrote at the end of the video.
Instead, the city provided a transcript of the remaining portion, which indicates that Bickings became increasingly distressed as he remained in the water. Bickings told the officers he was going to “drown,” according to the transcript.
“No, you’re not,” an officer, identified as Officer 2, replied.
Officer 1 then directed Bickings to “go to the pylon and hold on.”
“I’m drowning,” Bickings said.

“Come back over to the pylon,” Officer 2 said.


“I can’t,” Bickings said. “I can’t.”
“Okay, I’m not jumping in after you,” Officer 1 said.
Bickings then begged for help and said moments later, “I can’t touch. Oh God. Please help me. Help me.”
Bickings’s partner then joined the officers and begged them to help Bickings, according to the transcript. The officers told her to persuade Bickings to swim toward the bridge pylon. She tried and became increasingly upset. At one point, according to the transcript, Bickings’s partner tried to jump over the railing to help Bickings but did not end up doing so.
“I’m just distraught because he’s drowning right in front of you and you won’t help,” Bickings’s partner said.

The officers continued to tell her to calm down, saying a third officer was getting a boat.
“No, no, no. Swim,” the woman replied, using an expletive.






“You’re not helping,” Officer 2 said.
Moments later, Officer 1 said that Bickings “went underneath and hasn’t come up since about 30 seconds ago.”
For the remainder of the transcript, the officers did not address Bickings. Bickings’s partner continued to tell the officers that she loved Bickings.
“He’s everything I got,” she said. “I can’t lose him, he’s going to die.”
Officials said Bickings swam no more than 40 yards before he became distressed and “soon went under and did not resurface.”
The Arizona Republic reported that a team with Tempe Fire Medical Rescue pulled Bickings’s body out of the water just before 11:30 a.m.

 

MitchLL

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And the guy wasn't even Black or Brown.

Damn body cam/cell phone video.

Heroes!
 

Hoosierhawkeye

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To be fair jumping in the water and letting a drowning person grab onto you is not generally a good idea. I believe that doing something like that takes special training.

On the other hand if you see someone in the water in distress I would think you should be looking for something that floats to toss to them rather than simply watching it all happen.
 

OrlandNole

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To be fair jumping in the water and letting a drowning person grab onto you is not generally a good idea. I believe that doing something like that takes special training.

On the other hand if you see someone in the water in distress I would think you should be looking for something that floats to toss to them rather than simply watching it all happen.
Agreed.

Accordingly to the article, a third officer was looking for a boat when the man drowned. I have a hard time finding fault with them here.
 

kc78

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Unless you've been trained to rescue someone drowning, you're likely just going to drown as well. I'm normally upset with police in these, but in this one I'm not going to fault officers in this case. He played stupid games and won stupid prizes. The police didn't push him in the water. He did that to himself.
 

Hoosierhawkeye

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Unless you've been trained to rescue someone drowning, you're likely just going to drown as well. I'm normally upset with police in these, but in this one I'm not going to fault officers in this case. He played stupid games and won stupid prizes. The police didn't push him in the water. He did that to himself.

I fully agree but you should be looking for something that floats to toss him not standing there watching.

There are ways of rescuing a person drowning that don't involve, jump in the water.
 
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kc78

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I fully agree but you should be looking for something that floats to toss him not standing there watching.

There are ways of rescuing a person drowning that don't involve, jump in the water.
Apparently one officer was out looking. Maybe there wasn't anything to throw him in this instance. Maybe police should be required to carry a life preserver on their vehicles in case this situation arises again.
 

onlyTheObvious

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Dude jumped a fence to "go for a swim" to avoid questioning by police..... play stupid games win stupid prizes.
A lot to agree with here.

Make enough bad choices that force your well being to be dependent on others and sooner or later you will be very disappointed.

some people will say “right/wrong” “legal/illegal”. The technicalities which don’t mean much if you find yourself beat up, raped, or dead.
 

Hoosierhawkeye

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Apparently one officer was out looking. Maybe there wasn't anything to throw him in this instance. Maybe police should be required to carry a life preserver on their vehicles in case this situation arises again.

Couldn't all of them have been looking?

I would think those floatation devices with ropes that lifeguards often have would make sense for officers to carry in their car if you are any place with a river or body of water.

As far as this guy being stupid, it's highly possible that he was mentally ill.
 
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steelrain

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The dude made a conscious decision to jump in the water and "swim" away. When he became distressed he panicked and quit trying to swim. There were no other individuals in danger. In lifeguarding courses they teach the rescuers not to approach a drowning victim from the front and don't approach if they are panicking. They will only grab onto the rescuer and push them underwater to keep themselves up. They also teach not to attempt to rescue a drowning individual without a rescue flotation device. The lifeguard pushes the device to the drowning person and tows them back. If the drowning person attempts to reach the lifeguard, then the rescuer lets go of the device to create distance.

I can't fault the officers in this case. They saw the individual go into the water himself and put himself in harms way. There is no reason for the police to follow the individual an also put themselves in harms way if no one else is in danger. It's like a person that avoids police and runs into a burning building. The cops don't have to go into the building after him.
 

Tenacious E

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I fully agree but you should be looking for something that floats to toss him not standing there watching.

There are ways of rescuing a person drowning that don't involve, jump in the water.
That presupposes there was something around that would float.
 

wcbtee

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I feel bad for the man, but as others said, he made his choice.

I like the officers comment to why aren't you jumping in to save him? "why aren't you?"
 

LuciousBDragon

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If you know the area, police on top of the bridge would not have been able to jump from that height safely. If an officer from the shore were to swim out they would have risked their own safety (due to panicking swimmer hanging on them) and by the time they would have reached him once he signaled distress would have been 1 minute + unless their name was Michael Phelps. So the outcome likely would have been the same. Unfortunately, nothing available to toss to hang onto. Based on the hour of the day, seeing may have been difficult as well. There is a small, private marina on the opposite side of the lake but those are locked up and mostly pedal/wind powered small personal craft. Nothing that would have helped even if they found quick access. Hard to fault the police here.
 

torbee

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I remember when all the firemen and EMTs were standing around when a bystander jumped into the Potomac and saved the drowning woman...
Yeah, never count on cops to help you out --- their motto used to be "serve and protect" but now it always sounds like getting home safely is job #1.
 

MitchLL

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If you are going to die on the hill that everytime an asshole risk his life the cops need to also Rick theirs to get thet person out a danger they watched him get himself into, go for it. At some point I just have to recognize no matter what a cop does, you are going to pee your pants.
The way you defend cops, no matter the circumstance, you must have a family member in law enforcement?
 

torbee

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If you are going to die on the hill that everytime an asshole risk his life, the cops need to also risk theirs to get that person out a danger they watched him get himself into, go for it. At some point I just have to recognize no matter what a cop does, you are going to pee your pants.
I don't think people would be having much of an issue with this if the reporting and visual evidence didn't reflect an absolute lack of care or concern by the officers in question. Sure seems like their general approach was "meh, dumb homeless guy probably gonna die while his girlfriend watches. Oh well."

Of course they are not legally obligated to make an effort to save him. But their abject apathy is a pretty shitty look for most people with any semblance of conscience.
 

Whatsgoingonwitgyouguys0190

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Liberals will be pissed off since the cops didn't do anything.

If the swimmer would have had a Trump hat on they would have called him a moron and that the world is now a better place.
No. People who think life matters will think the cops should have a least tried to find something to help the guy. I don’t care what your political party is, I don’t want you dead.
 
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noleclone2

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Not sure I can fault the cops much here. They told him not to do it. He did. They told him to get out, he did not and was clowning around. When he got scared they likely were not sure even if it was legit or just a ploy to get them to jump in. They told him what to do and grab onto, he again did not listen. Then he was gone and three cops at 5AM really at that point are not capable of doing anything. He did a textbook ****ed around and found out.
 
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The way you defend cops, no matter the circumstance, you must have a family member in law enforcement?
I have 2 "brothers" that are in law enforcement and they are both small dicks. One is my step brother, the oldest boy in our family, and he is 100% the guy who people talk about when it comes to cops. He was insecure as shit growing up, would often exaggerate, is on his third marriage to an absolute bitch of a wife (she has earned it) and 100% uses the badge to think he is cool. He is a state patrol man in Illinois.


My former brother-in-law was also a cop but was let go because he wouldn't move to the community he looked after. He is also very much a small dick.




I have been vocal about cops good and bad when it's needed, you always piss yourself.
 
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I don't think people would be having much of an issue with this if the reporting and visual evidence didn't reflect an absolute lack of care or concern by the officers in question. Sure seems like their general approach was "meh, dumb homeless guy probably gonna die while his girlfriend watches. Oh well."

Of course they are not legally obligated to make an effort to save him. But their abject apathy is a pretty shitty look for most people with any semblance of conscience.
The dude played a game of can't touch me with cops and got himself into a life threatening situation being a smart ass.
 

torbee

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The dude played a game of can't touch me with cops and got himself into a life threatening situation being a smart ass.
Sounds like it.

Still pretty crappy to stand calmly and idly by while the man dies. Most people with a shred of human conscience wouldn't be able to do that.
 

noleclone2

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Sounds like it.

Still pretty crappy to stand calmly and idly by while the man dies. Most people with a shred of human conscience wouldn't be able to do that.
I agree to a point but I think it a) happened pretty fast and b) think they thought he was joking around. Once he is under with it being dark, it was game over.

Another issue too is a cop to rescue this drunk and unstable person clowning around would have to disarm to safely swim over and really trust the guy is not carrying a weapon or wanting to drown him.
 
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torbee

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I agree to a point but I think it a) happened pretty fast and b) think they thought he was joking around. Once he is under with it being dark, it was game over.

Another issue too is a cop to rescue this drunk and unstable person clowning around would have to disarm to safely swim over and really trust the guy is not carrying a weapon or wanting to drown him.
I'm just saying I'm a little surprised there wasn't at least an "oh crap, anybody got something we can throw out there!?" moment.

Here's a hypothetical -- maybe unfair, but still -- if the subject in question wasn't a skeevy homeless dude, but instead a mildly intoxicated Arizona State coed like the one pictured below, do you think the behavior and effort level of the officers would have been any different?

Cy4XqsdWQAA0M_W.jpg
 

Tenacious E

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I don't think people would be having much of an issue with this if the reporting and visual evidence didn't reflect an absolute lack of care or concern by the officers in question. Sure seems like their general approach was "meh, dumb homeless guy probably gonna die while his girlfriend watches. Oh well."

Of course they are not legally obligated to make an effort to save him. But their abject apathy is a pretty shitty look for most people with any semblance of conscience.
The video in the link didn't show the guy in distress. If anything, it suggests they thought he was alright and would swim back to shore. We don't see how things ratcheted up once the he said he was drowning. As others have pointed out, I'm not sure what they could have done in the timeframe when things went south.
 

Tenacious E

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I'm just saying I'm a little surprised there wasn't at least an "oh crap, anybody got something we can throw out there!?" moment.

Here's a hypothetical -- maybe unfair, but still -- if the subject in question wasn't a skeevy homeless dude, but instead a mildly intoxicated Arizona State coed like the one pictured below, do you think the behavior and effort level of the officers would have been any different?

Cy4XqsdWQAA0M_W.jpg
I don't, actually. They would probably would think someone drunk was screwing around and would swim back once she's had her fun.
 

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