Authorities investigating drowning death of man in Tempe Town Lake

Jun 6, 2022, 8:28 PM | Updated: 8:39 pm
Sean Bickings (Courtesy Photo)...
Sean Bickings (Courtesy Photo)
(Courtesy Photo)

PHOENIX — An investigation is underway for the drowning death of a homeless man who allegedly jumped into Tempe Town Lake while fleeing police last month, authorities said Monday.

Sean Bickings, 34, on May 28 was talking with Tempe police officers who responded to Tempe Beach Park near Mill Avenue and Rio Salado Parkway regarding an alleged fight between him and a companion, authorities said in a press release.

Bickings, who was not handcuffed, allegedly decided to climb over a 4-foot metal fence and entered the lake while police conducted a background check that found three outstanding warrants.

The city released edited body camera footage from one officer who responded to the incident and a transcript [WARNING: LANGUAGE]. 

Bickings told police he was drowning and begged for help, according to the transcript.

Officers asked Bickings to swim over to a pylon but the man said he couldn’t, according to the transcript.

An officer at one point told Bickings, “I am not jumping in after you,” according to the transcript.

A person identified in the transcript as a witness pleaded with officers and allegedly tried to jump over the railing.

Bickings went underwater and didn’t resurface. He was found hours later by a rescue team and was pronounced dead at the scene.

City Manager Andrew Ching and Police Chief Jeff Glover called Bickings’ death a tragedy, according to the release.

The Arizona Department of Public Safety will review Tempe’s investigation of Bickings’ death, the city said, and the Scottsdale Police Department is also beginning an administrative review of the critical incident.

The investigations will take multiple weeks, according to the release.

Tempe police and the city are also examining water response protocols and equipment needs for officers around bodies of water, according to the release.

The three Tempe officers who responded to the call have been placed on non-disciplinary paid administrative leave pending the investigations, which is customary in critical incidents, the city said.

The Associated Press contributed to this report. 

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Authorities investigating drowning death of man in Tempe Town Lake