June 7 (UPI) — Three Tempe police officers who watched a man drown in a Tempe, Ariz., lake in late May have been placed on non-disciplinary paid administrative leave while law enforcement agencies investigate the incident.
Sean Bickings, 34, died after shouting to officers on the bridge above, “I’m going to drown. I’m going to drown,” according to a Tempe Police transcript of the incident on May 28. One officer said “No, you’re not” and another urged Bickings to swim to a pylon and to hold on.
After Bickings said that he could not hold on to the pylon “Officer 1” said: “Okay, I’m not jumping in after you.”
The last words from Bickings were “I can’t, I can’t.”
A body cam video from one of the officers at the scene was posted by the police on YouTube. But the agency removed some footage from the video due to what it described as the “sensitive nature” of the content.
In a news release issued Monday, the city of Tempe said that the police department was “conducting its death investigation in the case of Sean Bickings first. This could take many weeks due to the need to wait for medical examiner and toxicology results. After the department’s investigation into the death, the Arizona Department of Public Safety (DPS) will review the investigation as well.”
In addition, the Scottsdale Police Department is launching an administrative review of the critical incident response.
The city of Tempe and Tempe Police also said that they were “examining water response protocols and equipment needs for officers as well as for placement of rescue equipment around bodies of water.”
Meanwhile, the Tempe Officers Association, the union representing the police officers said, “Attempting such a high-risk rescue could easily result in the death of the person in the water and the officer, who could be pulled down by a struggling adult. Officers are trained to call the Fire Department and/or get the Tempe Police boat. That is what officers did here.”
The union says it will work with the city to provide training and gear to officers “to ensure that such an incident never happens again.”
The city has two rescue boats, with one owned by police and the other to the fire department. However, both are reportedly located in a marina on the north side of the lake, nearly 1 mile from where the drowning occurred.