A Black man drowned in Arizona this weekend and police watched him lose his life while adamantly refusing to even try to rescue him, according to the officers’ own transcripts.
Sean Bickings died Saturday after entering Tempe Town Lake, but Tempe police officers responding to reports of an argument had the opportunity to try to save the 34-year-old man, a press release from the Tempe city government suggests.
As a result, all three officers who responded have been placed on paid leave while Bickings’ drowning is investigated.
The incident unfolded when there was a reported instance of domestic violence between Bickings and his wife near the Tempe Center for the Arts, which is located near a bridge.
Even though Bickings and his wife denied there was any domestic violence, the officers detained them while “running their names through a database used to check whether people have outstanding arrest warrants,” the Tempe press release said, calling that “a standard procedure.”
The press release went on to say that “Bickings decided to slowly climb over a 4-foot metal fence and enter the water.” The press release says Bickings ignored police orders and “swam about 30-40 yards before repeatedly indicating he was in distress.” That’s when Bickings submerged and never reappeared, the press release says.
However, the police transcripts from the encounter tell a slightly different story.
According to Fox 10 Phoenix, the police stubbornly broke their oaths to protect and serve by refusing to help Bickings.
One officer wrote in his notes that Bickings clearly said, “I’m drowning.”
But one officer simply advises Bickings to “Come back.”
When Bickings said he “can’t,” the first cop made no secret of his intentions: “OK, I’m not jumping in after you.”
The transcripts also show one of the officers threatened Bickings’ wife, who was reportedly in hysterics at the prospect of her husband dying.
“If you don’t calm down, I’m going to put you in my car,” a cop told Bickings’ wife.
“I’m just distraught because he’s drowning right in front of him and you won’t help,” Bickings’ wife said, according to the officers’ transcripts.
The apparent refusal of police to save a life in a preventable death came weeks after officers in Texas were accused of failing to act during a deadly school shooting. Police officers in Uvalde repeatedly lied to the media about the timetable of the shootings and the response from law enforcement, the latter of which allowed an 18-year-old gunman to shoot with impunity in an elementary school for more than an hour before U.S. Border Patrol engaged and killed Salvador Ramos.
That, in turn, has prompted the U.S. Department of Justice to conduct a Critical Incident Review of the law enforcement response in Uvalde.
Days after the Uvalde school shooting, President Joe Biden signed an executive order “to advance effective, accountable policing and criminal justice practices that will build public trust and strengthen public safety.”
It would appear at least three officers in Tempe, Arizona, did not get the memo.