National News

Utah officer who arrested nurse over blood test put on leave

Posted September 1

— A Utah nurse said she was scared to death when a police officer handcuffed and dragged her screaming from a hospital after she refused to allow blood to be drawn from an unconscious patient.

After Alex Wubbels and her attorneys released dramatic video of the arrest, prosecutors called for a criminal investigation and Salt Lake City police put Detective Jeff Payne on paid leave Friday.

"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."

The Salt Lake City police chief and mayor also apologized and changed department policies in line with the guidance Wubbels was following in the July 26 incident.

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."

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.

"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.

___

Ho reported from Las Vegas. Associated Press writers Michelle Price and Brady McCombs contributed to this report.

___

Follow Sally Ho at http://twitter.com/_sallyho and Lindsay Whitehurst at https://twitter.com/lwhitehurst .

17 Comments

Please with your WRAL.com account to comment on this story. You also will need a Facebook account to comment.

Oldest First
View all
  • Rudy Bizzell Sep 2, 6:49 a.m.
    user avatar

    OK how many good cops do you see in this video none they should have tried to diffuse they issue instead of letting him act like a out of control tyrant.

  • Eric Rothman Sep 1, 7:32 p.m.
    user avatar

    I usually always side with police, but just saw the video. This cop is out of line and. We'd to be severely punished!

  • Kelly Birdsall Sep 1, 7:16 p.m.
    user avatar

    View quoted thread


    EXACTLY!!!!

  • Kevin Heath Sep 1, 4:06 p.m.
    user avatar

    View quoted thread


    . That's right. NC just changed there implied consent law. The old law allowed blood draws from an unconscious person without a warrant if they were under arrest. Most of the time hospitals draw blood as part of their protocol for treatment. I'd there was any question as to impairment all he had to do was either ask if their test showed anything or worst case scenario supeona the hospital records if need be.

  • Rod Runner Sep 1, 2:46 p.m.
    user avatar

    View quoted thread


    If the cop is the type to manhandle and arrest a nurse that refuses his orders based on the law, then he is also the type to "go fishing" and see if the truck driver could also be charged with DUI just because he is unconsciousness and he thinks it's free to just take his blood.

  • Nicolle Leney Sep 1, 2:26 p.m.
    user avatar

    Also, just interesting, some articles have noted the comments caught on Payne's body camera video while he was talking to another officer. He was talking about his other job as an ambulance driver, and how this might affect that. He said, "I’ll bring 'em all the transients and take the good patients elsewhere." Sounds like a first-class officer. This guy is an insult to every good officer out there.

  • Nicolle Leney Sep 1, 2:22 p.m.
    user avatar

    The whole urgency of this officer needing to get the blood is rather strange too. The patient, William Gray was 110% not at fault. He's a reserve officer in Idaho and a truck driver. The person who hit Gray was at the time fleeing from police after reports of him driving recklessly and he crossed into oncoming traffic and hit Gray head on. That man died and Gray was severely burned (and still in the hospital and in serious condition over a month later). The officer claimed he wanted the blood sample to protect the patient but I'm not aware of police needing to take blood from every victim who is in a car accident.

    I could understand if there had been _any_ question on fault, etc, but the guy hit Gray head on while fleeing from police after already being observed driving recklessly. What was this need to take a blood sample 1) with no warrant 2) from someone who was unconscious and 3) a person who was not a suspect or facing any criminal charges (but was in fact the victim)?

  • Nicolle Leney Sep 1, 2:13 p.m.
    user avatar

    View quoted thread



    The “implied consent” changed in Utah in 2007. I'm guessing the recent change you are talking about was actually the national change. The U.S. Supreme Court ruled in 2016 that the Constitution permits warrantless breath tests in drunken-driving arrests, but not warrantless blood tests.

    She knew the law. The officer (and apparently his lieutenant) did not. It's rather scary that this officer does not know basic constitutional rights and yet he's STILL on active duty.

    The SLC sergeant that noted that the officer had been suspended from the blood draw program and also admitted that the department's blood-draw policy "hadn't been updated for a little bit" when the incident occurred. He said that since then, the policy has been changed and training is scheduled to make sure all officers are up to date on the policy.

    So apparently nurses can keep up with changes in law better than cops can???

  • Henry Cooper Sep 1, 2:10 p.m.
    user avatar

    View quoted thread


    Read more than WRAL. There was an outlined protocol for that request that was not met. It was agreed to between the hospital and the PD there based on current laws. If you watch the full video you can see the nurse going over that with them.

    Also a reasonable man does not have "know" every law in every state. Privacy in this matter is a constitutional protection that no state cannot overstep. This person was not charged or under arrest, he was the victim in the truck that got hit.

    It is law not rocket science.

  • Kevin Heath Sep 1, 1:24 p.m.
    user avatar

    The officer in this video could have used a little more restraint. All he had to do would be supeona the hospital records if need be.

More...