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Investigation underway after man drowns attempting to evade officers after they told him not to jump in lake

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Don Sweeney

The Charlotte Observer

A 34-year-old man who jumped in Tempe Town Lake to evade police drowned as three officers watched but failed to help, an Arizona police transcript shows.

“I’m not jumping in after you,” an officer tells the man in a partial police transcript provided to Arizona’s Family and other news outlets, advising him to swim to a nearby pylon.

“Please help me,” the man begs, according to the transcript. “Please please please.”

Sean Bickings drowned in the incident on Saturday, May 28, a Tempe city news release reported.

The three police officers involved are on non-disciplinary suspension as an investigation continues, the release said.

Police responded to reports of a fight between Bickings and his wife at 5 a.m. local time, the release said. The couple cooperated and denied any altercation had taken place.

Officers told the couple they were going to search police records for any warrants, and Bickings climbed over a 4-foot railing into the lake, the release said.

Police told him he was not allowed to swim in the lake, but Bickings swam 30 to 40 yards before beginning to struggle, according to the release.

An officer asks him,” So what’s your plan right now?” and Bickings replies, “I’m going to drown. I’m going to drown,” the police transcript said.

The officer tells him he’s not drowning and suggests he swim to a pylon. Bickings says he can’t and pleads for help as the officers discuss calling for a boat.

His wife asks them to save Bickings and officers advise her to encourage him to swim to shore. An officer tells her that if she doesn’t calm down, he’ll put her in his patrol car.

“I’m just distraught because he’s drowning right in front of you and you won’t help,” she says. The officers continued arguing with her after Bickings went under, the transcript shows.

One officer told his wife: “The officer is going to get the boat right now,” according to the transcript.

Bickings did not resurface, Tempe officials said in the release. His body was later recovered from the lake.

City Manager Andrew Ching and Police Chief Jeff Glover called his death “a tragedy” and Glover met with the man’s mother, the release said.

The state Department of Public Safety and Scottsdale Police Department are investigating.

Tempe is a city of 180,000 people southeast of Phoenix.

©2022 The Charlotte Observer. Visit charlotteobserver.com. Distributed by Tribune Content Agency, LLC.

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