Three Tempe, Arizona police officers have been placed on administrative leave following an incident in which a 34-year-old homeless man drowned in a lake, with one officer telling him "I'm not jumping in after you," reports say.
Sean Bickings, 34, died early Saturday near the Elmore Pedestrian Bridge "after voluntarily entering the water and soon becoming unable to continue swimming," the city of Tempe said in a statement.
In bodycam footage released by police, Bickings’ is seen climbing over a railing and telling the officers "I’m going to go for a swim, I’m free to go right?"
"You can’t swim in the lake, man," one of the officers responds.
Bickings is then seen swimming away into the water.
In a transcript of the moments that follow that police say they released for transparency, Bickings told the officers "I’m going to drown, I’m going to drown," according to Fox10 Phoenix.
"Come back over to the pylon," one of the officers tells Bickings.
"I can’t, I can’t," he responds.
"Okay, I’m not jumping in after you," another one of the officers then says, according to the transcript.
A responding officer is also documented in the transcript as telling a witness "if you don’t calm down, I’m going to put you in my car."
One officer later told the individual "okay the officer is going to get the boat right now."
The city of Tempe said before entering the lake, Bickings "had been conversing, unhandcuffed, with the officers, who had responded to a call about an alleged fight between Bickings and his companion."
"When officers arrived, they spoke to Bickings and his companion, who cooperated fully and denied that any physical argument had taken place. Neither were being detained for any offense," the city’s statement read. "Officers told the couple they were running their names through a database used to check whether people have outstanding arrest warrants; this is a standard procedure.
"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 continued. "He swam about 30-40 yards before repeatedly indicating he was in distress. He soon went under and did not resurface."
Tempe City Manager Andrew Ching and Police Chief Jeff Glover believe Bickings’ death is a "tragedy," the city also said.
"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," it added.