Family still pushing for safety 1 year after man drowns in Tempe Town Lake

Sean Bickings drowned during a confrontation with police in May 2022. Body cam footage showed Bickings hopping over a fence then jumping into the water.
Published: May. 20, 2023 at 10:03 PM MST
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TEMPE, AZ (3TV/CBS 5) - It’s been a year since Sean Bickings jumped into Tempe Town Lake and drowned. For those who knew and loved him, the emotion is still raw. “Although he had his struggles I still don’t believe he should have died the way he did,” said Turee Toro, Sean Bickings’ mother.

Those who knew Bickings met near the area where he took his last breath. “Sean had a heart of gold. He was soft spoken kind of like myself,” said Toro. “He had one of the strongest most beautiful spirits of anyone I ever met,” said Austin Davis, who knew Bickings.

Bickings drowned during a confrontation with police in May of last year. Body cam footage revealed Bickings hopping over a 4-foot fence and jumping into the water. Bickings quickly went from trying to get away from the police to pleading for their help. While in the water while officers watched from up top.

By the time an officer could get a boat from a nearby marina, it was too late. A year later, his mother said the way Tempe PD handled the situation still doesn’t add up. “I worried about him all the time endlessly but never could I have imagined him dying the way he did in the presence of the people who gave an oath to serve the community,” said Toro.

An investigation found the Tempe officers properly followed protocol. However, this incident prompted change. Officers now have “throw bags,” which are used for water rescues, in their arsenal. However, the Bickings family felt it’s not enough. Toro wants the City of Tempe to keep its word.

Since Bickings’ death, the city council said they would look into placing flotation devices around the lake for use in case of an emergency. However, that has yet to happen. “The City of Tempe please put life preserver up so nobody has to die I’m not saying they’ll help everybody but if it just helps one person that would be a lot,” said Toro.

Arizona’s Family reached out to the City of Tempe and received this statement: