Fairfax, VA – A man who tried to drown himself while working at a community swimming pool has sued the police officers and lifeguard who saved his life (video below).
Mateusz Fijalkowski came to the United States from Poland on a summer work program when he was 21 years old in 2016, The Washington Post reported.
Fijalkowski was hired to work as an assistant manager at the swimming pool at the Riverside Apartments in Fairfax County even though he couldn’t swim.
He began work on May 26, 2016, and learned how to set up the chairs on the pool deck, clean the pool, and check the chemicals in the water. He didn’t speak much English, according to The Washington Post.
On his third day of work, he started behaving bizarrely, his co-workers told police.
Fijalkowski argued with pool guests and mumbled to himself in Polish. He tore off a guests’ wristband and told her she wasn’t allowed in the pool, so a lifeguard who worked with him called the police.
Officers responded to the swimming pool to help, but Fijalkowski ignored their presence and kept blowing the lifeguard whistle.
The Washington Post reported that the Fairfax police officers cleared the pool area, and brought in a Polish-speaking officer and Fijalkowski’s Polish-speaking roommate to try to bridge the language divide and diffuse the situation, but nothing helped.
Police reports said Fijalkowski kept yelling “I am the lifeguard!” and praying aloud in Polish.
He threw his cell phone in the shallow end of the pool, twice, and retrieved it both times. Then he climbed the lifeguard stand and started shouting and blowing the whistle, according to The Washington Post.
A bystander took a video of the scene that began as Fijalkowski climbed into the pool using the ladder, and slowly waded from the shallow end of the pool into the deep end.
In the video, several police officers stood along the side of the pool watching the young man as he proceeded to submerge himself in the deep end of the pool.
Fijalkowski was underwater for about two minutes, holding onto the main drain grate at the bottom of the pool, The Washington Post reported.
Eventually, a lifeguard and two officers jumped in to assist Fijalkowski, the video showed.
In the video, they towed Fijalkowski’s unconscious body to the edge of the pool and pulled him up on the deck with assistance from more officers.
The lifeguard began CPR on the man he’d rescued right away, the video showed.
When the ambulance arrived, medics used an electronic defibrillator to revive Fijalkowski, according to The Washington Post.
It was later determined the young man had suffered a bipolar episode. He claimed he had never before had a mental health issue and was diagnosed after the near drowning incident.
In his lawsuit, Fijalkowski claimed eight police officers watched him drowning and did nothing about it, while they prevented a lifeguard from jumping in to save him.
He said he’d filed the lawsuit because he was left with more than $100,000 in medical expenses after more than a week in Fairfax Inova’s Heart and Vascular Institute, and another six days in the psychiatric facility that diagnosed him as bipolar, The Washington Post reported.
But the Fairfax County Police Department said its officers acted appropriately to save Fijalkowski and protect themselves and the lifeguard from a disturbed person, according to The Washington Post.
Chief Roessler defended his officers’ actions and said they had done the right thing by avoiding a physical altercation with a violent man who was behaving erratically.
“When someone’s having a mental episode, the last thing you want to do is go hands on,” the chief told The Washington Post. “You use time on your side to let the episode subside.”
Sean Brooks, who was Fijalkowski’s supervisor and the lifeguard who jumped in to rescue him, told his pool company that police wouldn’t let him jump into the water to save Fijalkowski until he had stopped moving.
Fijalkowski’s lawsuit also named Brooks as a defendant because he did what the police told him to do, Fijalkowski’s attorney Victor Glasberg told The Washington Post.
But Chief Roessler said the concern had been that if anyone went into the water too soon, they could be dragged under the water and seriously injured themselves.
“There’s no way to Monday-morning-quarterback this stuff,” he said. “Everybody there saved this young man’s life.”
Watch the pool employee trying to drown himself, and being saved, in the video below: