Disturbing footage has emerged of several police officers watching on as a man struggling to keep his head above water in a lake calls for help and eventually drowns.
Johnny Baldwin, 24, fled on foot when he got to a dead end after being chased by police in the US state of Tennessee over a minor traffic violation on June 4, according to ABC News.
Officers from two separate police departments joined forces in the pursuit of Mr Baldwin at about 1.45am, but they were stopped in their tracks when they spotted him in a lake.
According to a police report, an officer ordered he swim back to the bank from about midway across the lake.
“I gave him orders to stop and swim back towards us, which he did,” an officer said in the report.
When Mr Baldwin got about three metres from the bank, the officer said he stopped swimming and “just floated there for a second”.
The officer said Mr Baldwin sunk beneath the water several times and “popped back up”, but “went underwater one last time and never came back up”.
Mr Baldwin pleaded for help at least three times as four police officers stood above and watched.
“Well then swim. You’re the ****** that jumped in the river,” one officer was heard saying in body cam footage.
As his colleague appeared to begin preparing to get in the water, he told him not to because “he’s going to pull you down”.
Moments later Mr Baldwin disappeared under the surface for the final time – still officers seemed convinced it was an act.
“He’s gone under”, one said, as another replied, “he’s doing it on purpose”.
The police chief of one of the responding departments, Richard Lewis, told ABC News US on Wednesday (local time) he stood by the response from officers, who he believed acted within their means.
“We are not trained in water rescue — we do not possess the gear to do that. You've got to have a flotation device tied off somewhere to the bank where they can rescue you if something happens,” he told the network.
He said a combination of it being dark, the unknown depth of the water and concern for how Mr Baldwin would respond to help, made the operation unsafe.
“If my officer got in there and got tied up with him [and got pulled under,] it's just a bad situation.”
Relatives of Mr Baldwin, who went by the name JJ, have now called for the officers who didn’t attempt to save him to be fired.
“It's a part of your job to protect and serve the community. It just seemed like in that case with JJ that wasn't it. It was more of, 'Do I know this person? Is he armed? He's faking it.' Stuff that a cop on duty shouldn't ask,” his cousin Destiny Baldwin told ABC News.
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