Good Samaritan asks why law enforcement took so long to rescue the woman
This article has been updated Aug. 3 and Aug. 4 with information from a bystander's video, comments from Good Samaritan Scot Wolfe, Lt. Amber Baggs, Sheriff candidate John Hemmerling, and former Sheriff commander Dave Myers.
View video by Angel New of the rescue (warning, strong language and partial nudity)
Photo, left: Screenshot of Angel New's video shows paramedics and deputies working to revive the victim, as Scot Wolfe (right), the heroic citizen who first went into the water to save the woman, looks on.
By Miriam Raftery
Shiloh Ireland photography contributed to this report
August 3, 2022 (Lakeside) – A woman was saved from drowning at Lindo Lake yesterday after Scot Wolfe, a bystander, entered the water to save her. Sheriff’s deputies followed and pulled the woman out of the water and began lifesaving measures until paramedics arrived.
But some Lakeside residents are criticizing deputies and a park ranger for not taking action until a citizen went in first. A video by Angel New on Facebook shows that at least a minute and forty seconds elapsed before the first deputy went into the water. Several deputies, appearing in no rush, can be seen standing beside the lake, one stating that they must take their equipment off before they can enter the water.
Lieutenant Nanette McMasters at the Sheriff’s media line told ECM yesterday that the victim, who was topless when removed from the lake, “was believed to be under the influence and was swimming in violation” of posted rules; she added that the woman, who was approximately in her 50s, was known to deputies.
Lt. Amber Baggs with the Sheriff's media relations provided this detailed response. "Yes our Lakeside deputies were on that call. The female was extremely intoxicated and went swimming in Lindo Lake. Our deputies repeatedly tried to get her to swim and/or walk back to shore. Our deputies offered her bottled water, food, and a towel. Deputies were going to use a kayak to go in the water, but the woman said she was going to tip it over. Deputies requested a boat from the Sheriff's Search and Rescue team and also requested Sheriff's Crisis Negotiations Team. Deputies remained at the lake so they could continually watch the woman and continue to speak with her, as they waited for the additional resources."
Lt. Baggs adds, "After some time, the woman appeared to be in distress and remained under water. A good Samaritan citizen entered the water, as well as deputies. Sheriff's deputies grabbed the woman and pulled her to shore. The woman did not have a pulse, so deputies immediately performed life-saving measures and started CPR. Within a few minutes of performing CPR, the woman expelled water from her mouth and began breathing on her own. She was transported to a local hospital and is expected to make a full recovery. We are very appreciative of the good Samaritan who assisted in these efforts, as well as the County Parks staff from Lindo Lake."
10 News reports that Wolfe said he was walking around the lake when he saw the woman arguing and wandering in traffic, Bystanders called 911 for a welfare check; as around seven officers and five park rangers arrived, the woman jumped in the lake. She repeatly submerged and resurfaced, cursing and telling law enforcement that she would tip over a kayak they first planned to use to get her out of the water. Deputies called for a crisis negotiator and for asearch and rescue craft. After about a half hour, Wolfe said he realized the woman hadn't surfaced for 30 seconds or more, so he took action.
Wolfe, in an email to ECM, voiced frustration over officers’ slow response. “If you watch the videos, they were more concerned about their gear than they were saving this woman,” he stated. He wants to know “why the sheriffs waited and waited and waited until this woman drowned before a citizen had to go in and rescue her… It wasn’t until the citizen made the life-saving decision to go in that the police officers felt they needed to save face and get out there…. I am so thankful that the woman is alive and expected to make a recovery. I want an explanation from the police officers as to why seven of them + 5 park ranger stood around and did nothing while so many people watching were yelling at them to save this woman.”
Wolfe, who is being hailed as hero on social media, adds, “Why did it take a 56-year-old man with atrial fibrillation, congestive heart failure and a cancer survivor to get into the water to save this woman?...There is video after video showing their in action showing them dragging their feet because they didn’t want to get wet. It wasn’t until I got in the water that they realize they looked horrible for not saving this woman,” he states.
Wolfe adds that he provided instructions to the deputies on “how to perform CPR on a drowning victim versus a non-drowning victim.” He adds, “I am not trying to bash the cops but I’m trying to figure out why in the hell they did nothing until a citizen did some thing first.
The drowning victim was breathing on her own after the lifesaving measures including CPR, though no mouth-to-mouth resuscitation was done; a woman on the video can be heard offering to do mouth-to-mouth if no one else would do so. After breathing was restored, the woman was transported to a local hospital, according to Lt. McMasters.
After viewing video and hearing from Wolfe, ECM reached out to the Sheriff media line. Lieutenant Scott Roller had not seen the video and was not prepared to comment directly on the deputies’ actions or whether procedures were followed, but did note that the water (which is about three feet deep) has a muddy bottom “like quicksand” and that deputies have to be careful in any water rescue.
At Lt. Roller’s suggestion, we also reached out to Lt. Colin Hebelin at the Lakeside station.
ECM also sent a link to the video to candidates running for Sheriff to request comments. Kelly Martinez has not responded. John Hemmerling responded, "Deputy Sheriffs and police officers are first responders. Their number one priority is the preservation of human life. While I should not weigh in on the conduct of any of the deputies here, I believe the response of any agency's representatives is a direct reflection on the leadership at the very top. When I am Sheriff, first responders will respond first. That is what the community expects and deserves."
Dave Myers, a former Sheriff's Commander and previous candidate for Sheriff, had this to say after viewing the video and learning of the events leading up to the incident. "I can see there are issues with the initial non-response to eventual slow response by law enforcement on scene. A person was clearly in distress in a body of water and law enforcement stood by," he stated in an email to ECM. " It’s clear a Supervisor was on scene (standing at the waters edge) looking at a person in the water who was clearly in distress. We can see from the video several other deputies failing to act to save a person in the water."
Myers asks, "Is this the `Uvalde Effect,?" a reference to the elementary school mass shooting in Uvalde, Texas, where officers stood by for over an hour while lives were lost. "What was the direction from the on scene supervisor if anything to the subordinates on scene? I noticed the Supervisor was on the radio." (Editor's note: ECM has requested audio radio traffic for the incident.)... Finally, a citizen on scene, who was waiting for law enforcement to do something, frustrated went in himself. I have to wonder, because of the Sheriff’s Dept failed leadership which has directly contributed to lowest morale, forced overtime, working too many hours, contributed to clearly what is a lack of swift action to save a human."
This was the second drowning incident in Lakeside in two days. On August 1, a man believed to be homeless was found dead in a pond near Willow Road; his body was recovered the Sheriff’s Search and Rescue Team. Cause of his death will be determined by the medical examiner.
ECM is interested in hearing from any witnesses who were present and viewing any other videos that may have been taken; send any tips or information to firstname.lastname@example.org.