'I'm Not Jumping in After You': Ariz. Officers Placed on Leave After Failing to Save Drowning Man

Sean Bickings repeatedly called out for help before sinking beneath the surface of the Tempe Town Lake

Three police officers who reportedly stood by as a man drowning in a lake begged for assistance have been placed on non-disciplinary paid administrative leave in Tempe, Ariz., PEOPLE confirms.

In a statement, Tempe officials have asked the state's Department of Public Safety as well as investigators from the Scottsdale Police Department "to examine the Tempe Police response to the drowning."

The statement does not include the names of the three officers whose actions on May 28 at the Tempe Town Lake are being investigated. The drowning victim was identified as Sean Bickings, 34.

Authorities have released body camera footage from the May 28 incident that ends just before the drowning. Officials provided a partial transcript of what was said after that point.

The statement says officers were called to the north side of the Tempe Center for the Arts just after 5 a.m. on May 28, after receiving calls of a disturbance involving a man and a woman.

"When officers arrived, they spoke to Bickings and his companion, who cooperated fully and denied that any physical argument had taken place," the statement explains, noting police did not detain the couple.

When "officers told the couple they were running their names through a database used to check whether people have outstanding arrest warrants," Bickings started to climb over a 4-foot metal fence near the Elmore Pedestrian Bridge.

He made his way down to the water, and went into the lake voluntarily, the statement says.

"Officers informed him swimming is not allowed in the lake," reads the statement. "He swam about 30 to 40 yards before repeatedly indicating he was in distress. He soon went under and did not resurface."

According to the transcript, an officer asked Bickings, who allegedly had active warrants, what his plan was once he was in the lake. Bickings responded, "I'm going to drown. I'm going to drown." Another officer tells Bickings he isn't going to drown, and directs him to swim towards a pylon.

Sean Bickings
Sean Bickings.

Bickings repeats, "I'm drowning." The first officer replies, "Okay, I'm not jumping in after you," according to the transcript.

"Please help me," Bickings calls out. "Please, please please."

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According to the transcript, the woman begs officers to help Bickings.

"I'm just distraught because he's drowning right in front of you, and you won't help," she says.

Bickings then yells out, "I can't touch. Oh God. Please help me. Help me." Then, before going under the surface, he asks, "Can you hear me?"

Soon after, one of the officers notes that Bickings had been under the water's surface for approximately 30 seconds.

Bickings' body was pulled from the lake hours later.

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