Officer who arrested Utah nurse put on leave, is now under criminal investigation

SALT LAKE CITY (AP) —Salt Lake City police say an officer seen on video dragging a screaming nurse from a hospital and handcuffing her will be put on paid administrative leave after prosecutors called for a criminal investigation.

Nurse Alex Wubbels speaks during an interview Friday, Sept. 1, 2017, in Salt Lake City. Wubbels followed hospital policy and advice from her bosses when she told Salt Lake City police Detective Jeff Payne that he could not get the blood sample without a warrant or consent from the patient, said her lawyer, Porter. (AP Photo/Rick Bowmer)

Police Chief Mike Brown said in a statement Friday that his department will comply with the investigation into Detective Jeff Payne. He arrested nurse Alex Wubbels after she refused to allow blood to be drawn from an unconscious victim, in line with hospital policy.

Salt Lake County’s Unified Police Department will run the criminal probe into Payne’s actions on July 26, which got widespread attention after Wubbels and her lawyers released the dramatic video Thursday.

Brown and the mayor of Salt Lake City have apologized for the incident and changed their policies to mirror hospital protocols.

“This cop bullied me. He bullied me to the utmost extreme,” Wubbels said in an interview with The Associated Press. “And nobody stood in his way.”

Wubbels, a former alpine skier who competed in the 1998 and 2002 Winter Olympics, said she adhered to her training and hospital protocols to protect the rights of a patient who could not speak for himself.

“You can’t just take blood if you don’t have a legitimate concern for something to be tested,” Wubbels said. “It is the most personal property I think that we can have besides our skin and bones and organs.”

“I was alarmed by what I saw in the video with our officer,” Police Chief Mike Brown said.

Police body-camera video shows Wubbels, who works in the burn unit, calmly explaining that she could not take blood from a patient who had been injured in a deadly car accident, citing a recent change in law. A 2016 U.S. Supreme Court ruling said a blood sample cannot be taken without patient consent or a warrant.

Wubbels told Payne that a patient had to allow a blood sample to determine intoxication or be under arrest. Otherwise, she said police needed a warrant. Police did not, but Payne insisted.

The dispute ended with Payne saying, “We’re done, you’re under arrest” and pulling her outside while she screamed and said, “I’ve done nothing wrong!”

He had called his supervisor and discussed the time-sensitive blood draw for over an hour with hospital staff, police spokeswoman Christina Judd said.

“It’s not an excuse. It definitely doesn’t forgive what happened,” she said.

Payne wrote in a police report that he grabbed Wubbels and took her outside to avoid causing a “scene” in the emergency room. He said his boss, a lieutenant whose actions also were being reviewed, told him to arrest Wubbels if she kept interfering.

 

The detective left Wubbels in a hot police car for 20 minutes before realizing that blood had already been drawn as part of treatment, said her lawyer, Karra Porter. Wubbels was not charged.

“This has upended her worldview in a way. She just couldn’t believe this could happen,” Porter said.

Wubbels and her attorneys on Thursday released the video they obtained through a public records request to call for change. She has not sued, but that could change, said attorney Jake Macfarlane.

Salt Lake County District Attorney Sim Gill said that the video was concerning and called the police chief to ask for a criminal investigation.

The department is open to the inquiry that will be run by Salt Lake County’s Unified Police, Judd said. Gill’s office will review the findings.

In response to the incident, Judd said the department updated its blood-draw policy last week to mirror what the hospital uses. She said officers have already received additional training.

The agency has met with hospital administration to ensure it does not happen again and to repair ties.

“There’s a strong bond between fire, police and nurses because they all work together to help save lives, and this caused an unfortunate rift that we are hoping to repair immediately,” Judd said.

The hospital said it’s proud of the way Wubbels handled the situation.

The patient was a victim in a car crash and Payne wanted the blood sample to show he had done nothing wrong, according to the officer’s written report.

The patient, William Gray, is a reserve police officer in Rigby, Idaho, according to the city’s police. They thanked Wubbels for protecting his rights.

Gray is a semi-truck driver and was on the road when a pickup truck fleeing from authorities slammed into him and his truck burst into flames, police reports say.

Payne didn’t return messages left at publicly listed phone numbers, and the Salt Lake Police Association union did not respond to messages for comment. The department and a civilian board also are conducting reviews.

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