Alameda police received a call shortly before noon on Monday from a woman saying her son wanted to kill himself. Raymond Zack, 53, then walked out into the water off Crown Beach.
"I thought it was kind of weird that they weren't going out to bring the guy in, you know, he was out there, his head was above water, he was looking at everybody, there was plenty of time for them to react," witness Perry Smith said.
For more than an hour, Zack stood up to his neck in the frigid surf off of Crown Beach in Alameda.
"Well, we expected to see at some point that there would be a concern for him and somebody would go out there and pull him in," witness Gary Barlow said.
About 75 beachgoers could not understand why Alameda police officers and firefighters stood idly by and watched the man slowly succumb to the 60 degree water.
"We're not trained to go into the water, obviously the type of gear that we have on, we don't have the type of equipment that you would use to go into the water," Alameda Police Lt. Joe McNiff said.
The man was a 150 yards out; it was too shallow for a Coast Guard boat and its helicopter was on another call. It arrived too late.
"It's horrible," Barlow said. "How can we let that happen? How can our emergency personnel allow that to happen? I don't get it, I don't understand it."
The Alameda Fire Department says budget constraints are preventing it from recertifying its firefighters in land-based water rescues. Without it, the city would be open to liability.
" Well, if I was off duty I would know what I would do, but I think you're asking me my on-duty response and I would have to stay within our policies and procedures because that's what's required by our department to do," Alameda Fire Div. Chief Ricci Zombeck said when asked by ABC7 if he would enter the water to save a drowning child.
Alameda firefighters could not even go into the water to get the body, so they waited until a woman in her 20s volunteered to bring the body back to the beach.
"The frustration is certainly understandable and I think the sensibility would be probably that we're going to evaluate our response protocols," Zombeck said.
Alameda fire officials say they are going to have a serious discussion about why Alameda, as an island city, does not have the ability to save people in danger in the water.
Some of the images in the video were obtained from: oaklandlocal.com.