FRANKLIN COUNTY, Tenn. (WKRN) — A Franklin County family is devastated and demanding answers after seeing body camera footage of their loved one drowning as police stood by.
24 year old Johnny “JJ” Baldwin drowned early Thursday morning in Tims Ford Boiling Fork Creek.
According to police, they began pursuing Baldwin in Decherd following a minor traffic violation and said it continued into Winchester with speeds never exceeding 45 miles per hour. A Winchester police report stated that Baldwin fled on foot and ended up in the water.
In the video you hear Baldwin ask for help at least three times. One officer can be heard responding, “Then swim. Your dumb a** jumped in the river.”
No one helped, but you see another officer considering going in.
“No don’t go in there with him, he’s going to pull you in,” one officer responded. The Winchester police Chief told News 2 that is his Sergeant.
Not long later, Baldwin goes under for the last time.
“He’s doing it on purpose,” you hear from the sergeant.
The video has members of the small community heartbroken, angry and in shock.
“I was angry, I was tearful. I have watched the life drown out of someone’s eyes and I don’t understand how they could just stand there and do nothing, because human nature if you have may humanity your first impulse is to help someone. even your worst enemy you don’t want to see anyone befalling, but they let this man die while they stood there on the bank,” Gina Sims-Johnson of the New South Chronicle cried to News 2.
She is among a number of community members that have joined the family’s “Justice For JJ” Facebook page calling out the police for their actions.
“How come he couldn’t reach out the baton he was using to cut down the trees extend it to J and save him? Why was nothing done?” questioned Holly Duckett who is an advocate for the Baldwin family.
The Winchester Police Chief told News 2 that his officers made the best decision, saying they didn’t know how deep the water was, it was dark and that they are not trained in water rescue.
“As a veteran they taught us water rescue. I was 145 pounds dragging 300 pound guys out of water as a trainee. If the police officers don’t have the same comparable training that I had as a veteran they don’t need to be on the force,” stated Sims-Johnson.
Family members are calling for the officers to be fired and charges filed.
“Why didn’t they save him? He was an innocent 24 year old man, drowned begging for help three times and the police sat there and laughed and made jokes about it,” said Brian Kirk who is a close family friend.
The family and friends said they will not give up on getting justice.
“You can’t sweep it under the rug. This is bigger than Franklin County now and we are going to keep pushing it and we are going to keep pushing and we are going to keep pushing it until we get answers,” proclaimed Sims-Johnson.
News 2 also reached out to the Decherd Police Department, but have not yet heard back.
JJ who is from Illinois would often visit Winchester and was considering moving there, his aunt told News 2.
The family has created a GoFundMe account, as they say JJ didn’t have life insurance.
A change.org petition has garnered nearly 1-thousand signatures calling out one of the Winchester police officers involved.
This is a developing story. Stay with News 2 and WKRN.com for updates.