Tempe Police Watch as Man Drowns

Plus: FIRE moves beyond campus, a 1,000 percent excise tax on semiautomatic rifles?, and more...


Tempe police watched a man drown while refusing to offer assistance. "I'm not jumping in after you," one of the officers says in a transcript of body-cam footage from the encounter, which took place at Tempe Town Lake around sunrise on Saturday, May 28.

The man, Sean Bickings, repeatedly asked the officers for help. After the Tempe Fire Department's dive and rescue team pulled him out of the water, he was pronounced dead.

Body-cam footage released by the Tempe Police Department shows the lead-up to Bickings' death, in which Tempe police officers responded to some sort of altercation between Bickings and a woman named Susan. She tells the officers they had been having a "conversation," not a physical confrontation, and that Bickings "didn't do anything wrong."

Police then go to talk to Bickings, who after several minutes climbs over a railing that leads to the lake. Asked what he's doing, Bickings says: "I'm gonna go for a swim. I'm free to go, right?" The officers tell him he's not allowed to swim in the lake, but Bickings keeps swimming. Eventually he stops and treads water under a pedestrian bridge.

Video shows police discuss the situation from the shore, with one officer telling the others to keep watching Bickings while he calls for a boat. It's unclear if he actually does call for a boat at this time.

Two officers slowly walk up the bridge. Then Bickings can be heard yelling before the video cuts out. "Due to the sensitive nature of the remaining portion of the recording, a transcript of the sensitive portion of the event is being provided for full transparency," a video placard states. A local CBS affiliate has published the transcript.

"So what's your plan right now?" asks an officer.

"I'm going to drown. I'm going to drown," says Bickings.

The officer tells him "No, you're not."

Bickings repeats the he is drowning.

"OK, I'm not jumping in after you" says one of the officers.

"Please help me. Please, please, please," says Bickings.

Police keep instructing him to swim to a pylon as he continues to ask for help.

Police then argue with Susan, who has approached the bridge. "Stop. Get off of me. He didn't do nothing wrong," she says in the transcript. "I love, I love him. Please stop being so aggressive."

They tell her to "chill out" and "get off of the bridge."

"Oh my God, is he OK? Stop, why are you doing this? I'm trying to help my fucking, please don't [inaudible]," Susan continues. She says she's trying to go over to help Bickings. "He's drowning, he's drowning," she says.

"If you don't calm down, I'm going to put you in my car," says one of the officers.

After several more back and forth, one of the offices "OK, the officer is going to get the boat right now."

It's unclear what exactly is happening, but one officer in the transcript says to someone "we got the female" who "was trying to jump over the railing."

"No, I was worried about him. He's drowning down there," says Susan. "I'm just distraught because he's drowning right in front of you and you won't help."

One of the officers says, "Mark that he went underneath and hasn't come up since about 30 seconds ago." Then the officers continue arguing with Susan.

The whole thing is disturbingly reminiscent of police behavior during the recent mass shooting in Uvalde, Texas. Police stood around outside the school while the shooter killed children inside and aggressively prevented parents of school children from going in to help.

Police have no legal duty to risk their lives to save lives ("regardless of the fact that most citizens believe that is precisely what all those tax dollars are being spent to ensure," writes Michael Schaus at The Nevada Independent). Both the Uvalde killings and Bickings' death serve as disturbing reminders of that. What's especially chilling is how police in both instances not only failed themselves to help but actively attempted to stop bystanders from helping.


FIRE moves beyond campus. The Foundation for Individual Rights in Education (FIRE) is rebranding as the Foundation for Individual Rights and Expression (still FIRE) and expanding its effort to fight for free speech. The new FIRE will "promote greater acceptance of a diversity of views in the workplace, pop culture and elsewhere," reports Politico. "Part of the push may challenge the American Civil Liberties Union's primacy as a defender of free speech."


Congressional Democrat proposes a 1,000 percent excise tax on semiautomatic rifles. The bill's sponsor, Rep. Don Beyer (D–Va.), told Insider that the bill—still in draft form—is intended to "provide another creative pathway to actually make some sensible gun control happen." The bill could raise the price of AR-15s and similar guns from around $500–$2,000 to around $5,500–$22,000, a recipe for a booming black market.


• "Federal data suggests the rate of breakthrough COVID infections in April was worse in boosted Americans compared to unboosted Americans—though rates of deaths and hospitalizations remained the lowest among the boosted," reports CBS. "For the week of April 23, it said the rate of COVID-19 infections among boosted Americans was 119 cases per 100,000 people. That was more than double the rate of infections in those who were vaccinated but unboosted, but a fraction of the levels among unvaccinated Americans."

• Can a post-"takeover" Libertarian Party improve on its historical run of 2012–20? asks Reason's Matt Welch.

• Prosecutions like these could become more common if Roe v. Wade is overturned, the National Advocates for Pregnant Women (NAPW) warns. "A lot of people don't realize that pregnant people are already facing criminalization all across the country, including in blue states like California. All it takes is a rogue district attorney," NAPW attorney Emma Roth told The Guardian.

• After two hung juries, the feds are taking chicken processors to court on antitrust charges for a third time. Even U.S. District Judge Philip A. Brimmer has questioned the government's decision, saying at an April hearing: "What if the trial goes a third time and it hangs once again? How many times does the department say, 'We believe in our case,' as opposed to, 'Let's look at the evidence. Let's look at the fact that, you know, we know how it plays out because the jury hangs every time.'"

• "A growing number of corporate executives want to put an end to the work-from-home revolution," suggests Axios. "But workers have gotten used to the flexibility, and they have the leverage to demand it."

• "Ohio lawmakers approved a particularly intrusive trans school sports ban" last week, writes Reason's Scott Shackford. The "Save Women's Sports Act" would not only stop Ohio schools and colleges from allowing "individuals of the male sex" to participate in girl's and women's sports but also "give people the power to dispute the sex of an individual athlete. Then it falls upon that athlete to prove their sex by going to a physician and getting a signed statement confirming the athlete's sex."

• "There is no compelling evidence" that San Francisco's district attorney Chesa Boudin's "policies have made crime significantly worse in San Francisco," and "overall crime in San Francisco has changed little since Mr. Boudin took office in early 2020," reports The New York Times. But Democrats are far from immune from the crime panics that plague conservatives, and Boudin is serving as their scapegoat.