Newly released transcripts and video footage reveal 34-year-old Sean Bickings and his wife begging cops for help just before he drowned in Tempe Town Lake.
The May 28 incident began at 5:00 am with Arizona officers responding to an alleged domestic violence report between Bickings and his wife, though the pair denied making the call and said no such fighting had occurred between them.
According to a statement from Tempe officials, responding officers told the husband and wife that they were running their names through a database to check for outstanding arrest warrants, which is a standard procedure.
During the database check, Bickings, described by officials as an "unsheltered Tempe community member," reportedly tried to flee the scene by going into the lake.
"That check had not yet been completed when Bickings decided to slowly climb over a 4-foot metal fence and enter the water. Officers informed him swimming is not allowed in the lake," the statement reads. "He swam about 30-40 yards before repeatedly indicating he was in distress. He soon went under and did not resurface."
The transcripts and footage released on Friday (June 3) showed that officers declined to save the 34-year-old as he struggled to remain afloat.
"I'm drowning," Bickings told officers according to the transcripts.
"Come back over to the pylon," an officer said.
"I can't. I can't (inaudible)," the victim said in response.
"OK, I'm not jumping in after you," an officer fired back.
The officers also threatened to arrest his wife who was panic-stricken and begging authorities to help.
"If you don't calm down, I'm going to put you in my car," a cop told the wife.
"I'm just distraught because he's drowning right in front of him and you won't help," the wife said.
Police then told the wife that another officer was getting a boat to save Bickings, but when his body was pulled out of the water at 11:30 am, the 34-year-old was already dead.
The city is currently investigating the three officers' response to the drowning, according to officials.
"The three Tempe police officers who responded to the call and witnessed the drowning have been placed on non-disciplinary paid administrative leave pending the investigations, as is customary in critical incidents," their statement continues.
According to Fox29, City Manager Andrew Ching and Police Chief Jeff Glover called Bickings' death a "tragedy."
Read the full transcript from the incident here.
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