Three Tempe police officers have been placed on “non-disciplinary paid administrative leave” as numerous law enforcement organizations examine what happened last month when a man drowned in an Arizona lake.
Officers were speaking with an uncuffed Bickings — who officials described as an “unsheltered Tempe community member” — while checking for outstanding warrants on his and his companion’s names in a database.
According to police body camera footage from one of the officers, Bickings hopped a metal barrier, descended an embankment, and began swimming in Tempe Town Lake.
The video stops just as Bickings struggles in the water and ultimately drowns, but the city has given a transcript of the film up to that point.
Bickings cries for help, “I’m drowning.”
An officer instructs him to swim to a pylon, but Bickings claims he cannot do so.
The cop answers, “OK, I’m not going to jump in after you.”
“I can’t touch. Oh, my God. Please help me. Help me, “Bickings responds a few moments later.
The Tempe Police Department is investigating Bickings’ death, and the Arizona Department of Public Safety will also look into it. A separate administrative review of how the officers responded is conducted by the Scottsdale Police Department.
The drowning was described as a “tragedy” by City Manager Andrew Ching and Police Chief Jeff Glover. Glover allegedly met with Bickings’ mother on Wednesday, according to police.
Authorities said they aim to disclose more body camera footage from all three responding cops this week. They also stated that the footage would be modified “because of its violent, sensitive nature.”
Tempe Police and city officials are also reevaluating their water response techniques, what equipment police may require and where rescue equipment should be placed near bodies of water.
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