Chilling footage captured from a Tennessee police officer's bodycam reveals moments before a drowning man's cry for help fell on deaf ears of the police. Instead of helping the victim, the police officers teased and called him a "dumb ass".
In the incident that took place last week at Tims Ford Boiling Fork Creek in Winchester, 24-year-old Johnny "JJ" Baldwin fell into the creek while trying to escape police after he was accosted for a minor traffic violation.
Baldwin Cried 'Help Me' Multiple Times Before Drowning
In the body cam video footage released by the station, Tennessee police could be clearly heard teasing Baldwin as he cried for help three times. "Well then, swim. Your dumb ass jumped in the river," an officer could be heard saying in response to Baldwin's pleas for help.
The footage available with WKRN revealed a police officer suggesting to another: "Don't go in there with him, he's going to pull you in. He's doing it on purpose."
According to ABC News, a Winchester Police incident report stated: "As Baldwin drove down a dead end, Winchester police joined Decherd officers in the pursuit at 1:43 am. Baldwin then fled on foot, and as the Winchester officers searched the area, they heard something in the water nearby. Officers reached the edge of Tims Ford Lake and saw Baldwin halfway across."
An officer who was present on the spot said in the report: "I gave him orders to stop and swim back towards us, which he did. Baldwin was about 10 feet from the lake's bank when he stopped coming closer and just floated there for a second."
"Baldwin would go under water and pop back up several times but would never proceed to the edge where we could get him. Then he went under water one last time and never came back up," the officer wrote in the report.
Winchester Police Chief Defends Action
The report stated that a team of four police officers, two each from Decherd and Winchester, were involved in the incident. Calling it an extremely sad situation, Winchester Police Chief Richard Lewis said his department has "caught absolute hell" after releasing the bodycam footage.
Defending the action of his officers, Lewis told the outlet: "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."
"The lake is in a wooded, overgrown area, where it's unclear how deep the water is. Officers were also concerned whether Baldwin would engage in a struggle with police considering he had already fled. That's the reason we didn't jump in. If my officer got in there and got tied up with him [and got pulled under,] it's just a bad situation," added Lewis.