Family: Deputies didn't do anything to save drowning man

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Warning: This story contains some disturbing video.

On Friday, our Eyewitness News cameras captured the commotion of Houston police and firefighters trying to recover the body of Thomas Williams, who drowned in the bayou that crossed under San Jacinto near Franklin. However, what we did not see at the time, was the moments after Williams allegedly jumped into the Bayou. He was still very much alive.

In victim captured by citizen journalist David Worden, who was in the area on an unrelated court case, you can see Williams treading water. Meanwhile, several bystanders, which Worden says included at least two Harris County Sheriff's deputies, watched from the bridge above.

"The deputies ran down there and the general consensus was that when the deputies went down from the bridge, they were going to get him," said Worden. "And that failed to materialize."

Warden kept his cameras rolling and captured the deputies on the banks of the bayou. However, before anyone went into the water to attempt a rescue, Williams drowned. We see his black jacket floating in the bayou toward the end of the video.

"I'm just wondering if that had been a woman and a child, instead of a homeless guy, would that have made a difference to anybody?" said Worden.

Williams, though, wasn't homeless. He lived in a north Houston house with his niece and nephew. They were too upset to talk, but we did speak with his surviving brother, Aubrey Cruz.

When asked if he thought a sheriff's Deputy should have stepped in, Cruz answered, "Yes. Or if not jump, or try to make an attempt or something. That's what they're trained to do. They should have done something instead of just standing over there and nothing."

The Harris County Sheriff's Department disagreed. It released a statement, showing a timeline that said deputies only arrived after Houston firefighters and police officers were already on scene:

"HCSO personnel on scene were dispatched to investigate the suspicious male, while HPD responded to a suicide in progress call. At the time of HCSO personnel arrival, the male in question was fully submerged and recovery efforts had already begun.

Most deputies are not specifically trained, nor are they adequately equipped for high water rescues. At the time of HCSO involvement, the Houston Fire Department and HPD Dive team were already actively engaged, and better equipped to respond to rescue and recovery operations."

Worden, the citizen journalist who has had previous run-ins with the sheriff's department agrees that deputies did not break any specific protocol. However, looking back, he wishes he did more than just record Williams' last moments.

"I'm not angry that the deputies didn't go into the water and go after the gentleman, that's a personal call," said Worden. "My personal opinion is that had I been able to get down there I would have done it. And had I realized nobody else was going to do it, I would have done it."

Williams' family say it is still planning his funeral.
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