Man drowns as officers look on without coming to his aid, family wants them fired
The family of a 24-year-old who drowned while the police were watching instead of helping him is outraged after seeing the events on a body camera video.
Police officers in Decherd, Tennessee, just outside of Winchester, were in a car chase in the early morning hours of June 4, trying to run over Johnny Baldwin for a minor traffic violation, Winchester Police Chief Richard Lewis told ABC News Wednesday .
When Baldwin entered a cul-de-sac, the Winchester police followed Decherd officers at 1:43 am, according to an incident report from the Winchester police.
Baldwin then fled on foot and when the Winchester officers searched the area, they heard something in the water nearby, the report said.
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Officers reached the edge of Tim's Ford Lake and saw Baldwin halfway, the report said.
"I gave him the order to stop and swim back to us, which he did," said one official in the report.
Baldwin was about 10 feet from the lakeshore when "he stopped getting closer and just floating there for a second," the officer wrote.
Baldwin would "go underwater and reappear several times, but never go to the edge where we could get it". Then "he went under water one last time and never came up again," wrote the officer.
"He ends up drowning, which is an extremely sad situation," Lewis told ABC News. "We released our body camera and got the hell out of it."
The body camera video shows Baldwin swimming and an officer who calls him "stupid" because he jumped in.
PHOTO: The family of a 24-year-old who drowned while the police were watching instead of helping him is outraged after seeing the events on a body camera video. (WKRN)
"Don't go in with him, he'll drag you in," said an official, according to WKRN, a subsidiary of ABC Nashville.
"He's doing it on purpose," said an officer.
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Two Winchester police officers were at the lake scene and two Decherd police officers, said Lewis. Decherd was the lead agency for the persecution, Lewis said.
Decherd's chief of police did not immediately respond to ABC News's request for comment.
The video with the body camera "directly annoyed me because I know what kind of person he is," Baldwin cousin Destiny Baldwin told ABC News. "You treated him very, very unfairly."
She believes the officials at the site of his death should be released, lose their badges and indict.
"It is part of your job to protect and serve the community. In this case, it just seemed like JJ wasn't. It was more like, 'Do I know this person? Is he armed? He's faking it . ' Things a policeman on duty shouldn't ask, "she said.
Baldwin, walking past JJ, "was always there when you needed something," she said. "Very happy and sociable person and very loving person."
Chief Lewis defended the actions of his two officers on site and said they "made the right decision."
One of these officers was unable to swim, Lewis told ABC News, and the second officer took off his gear to board, but the first Winchester officer stopped him.
"We are not trained in water rescue - we do not have the equipment for it," said Lewis. "You have to have swimming equipment somewhere at the bank that can save you if something happens."
The rescue team and diving team were on the move before Baldwin drowned, the incident report said.
Lewis also noticed that it was the middle of the night and pitch black on the shores of the lake, except for her flashlights.
The lake is in a wooded, overgrown area where it is unclear how deep the water is. The officials were also concerned that, according to Lewis, Baldwin was going to fight the police since he had already fled.
"That's why we didn't jump in," said Lewis. "If my officer got in there and was tied up [and underwent] with him, that's just a bad situation."
Man drowns when officers watch without coming to his aid, family wants them to be fired, originally appeared on abcnews.go.com
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