TEMPE, Ariz. – An investigation has been launched after a man died in an Arizona reservoir last month.
State and local officials are trying to find out why police officers who were called to the reservoir near Elmore Pedestrian Bridge in Tempe didn’t enter the water, CNN reported.
Officers were called to “an alleged fight” between Sean Bickings and his female companion.
Both Bickings and the woman denied that a fight happened and neither was under arrest, but while officers were running his name through a warrant database, Bickings climbed a fence and went into the water, The New York Times reported.
He was told he was not allowed to swim in the lake.
Bickings swam 30 to 40 yards and then asked for help. He can be heard on body camera footage saying “I’m going to drown. I’m going to drown,” according to transcripts obtained by CNN. One officer told him, “No, you’re not,” The Arizona Republic reported.
According to the transcript, officers said, “Okay, I’m not jumping in after you” while other officers told him to swim to a pylon, CNN reported.
Before the transcript and video were released, police said that Bickings “was uncooperative” with their rescue efforts, The Arizona Republic reported.
Officers did ask for help from the fire department, but Bickings went under the water and never came back up.
The transcript did show that a witness did try to jump into the water to help Bickings, the newspaper reported.
The union that represents the officers said that Tempe Police Department does not train officers in water rescue and the department does not have the necessary equipment to help people who are drowning.
“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,” a statement from the Tempe Officers Association said.
The three officers who responded to the call are on non-disciplinary, paid administrative leave as the investigation continues, The Arizona Republic reported.
Bickings’ body was recovered from the water about six hours after he drowned, The New York Times reported.