Illegally ordered to take a blood sample from an unconscious patient, the head nurse at the University of Utah Hospital’s burn unit was assaulted and arrested by a police detective for protecting her patient’s constitutional rights. Recorded on police body cameras, the detective clearly lost his temper before slamming the nurse against a wall and attempting to trump up false charges against her.
On July 26, a truck driver was admitted to the hospital after a suspect fleeing from police crashed head-on into the truck on the local highway. Suffering from severe burns, the truck driver arrived at the hospital in a comatose state, while the suspect did not survive the crash.
Despite the fact that the truck driver was not suspected of committing any crimes, Salt Lake City Police Detective Jeff Payne reportedly arrived at the hospital to obtain a blood sample from the victim in order to check for illicit substances. Without any legal authority to do so, Det. Payne ordered nurse Alex Wubbels to immediately draw blood from the victim as she consulted with her supervisor over the phone.
Captured on police body cam video, Payne and another officer discussed arresting Wubbels for obstruction of justice or interfering with a criminal investigation, while the nurse calmly spoke with her supervisor over the phone. As Wubbels approached the officers, she presented to them a written agreement between the hospital and police department on obtaining blood samples from patients suspected to be under the influence of illegal substances.
“This is something that you guys agreed to with this hospital,” Wubbels explained to the officers. “The three things that allow us to do that are: if you have an electronic warrant, patient consent, or patient under arrest. And neither of those things…”
While attempting to explain that the police had no legal authority to draw blood from a patient who was not under arrest, not the subject of a search warrant, and unable to give consent, Wubbels told the detective, “I have no idea why you’re blaming me. I’m just representing―”
Over the speakerphone, Wubbels’ supervisor asked the detective, “Why are you blaming the messenger?”
“She’s the one that told me ‘no,’” Payne informed him.
“Sir, you’re making a huge mistake because you’re threatening a nurse,” Wubbels’s supervisor advised the frustrated detective.
Immediately losing his temper, Payne attempted to take the cellphone out of Wubbels’ hand before telling her, “No! We’re done here. You’re under arrest!”
Tightly gripping the nurse by her arms, Payne escorted her outside before slamming her against the wall and placing her in handcuffs.
“I’ve done nothing wrong,” Wubbels shouted in disbelief while screaming in pain. Although her co-workers attempted to defend her innocence, Payne threatened to arrest them on false charges as his fellow officers stood by witnessing their colleague blatantly violating the nurse’s civil rights.
During the video, another officer could be heard saying, “I don’t think this arrest is going to stick.”
Despite her arrest, Wubbels was not criminally charged. Working as a nurse at the hospital since 2009, Wubbels reportedly competed as an Alpine skier in the 1998 and 2002 Winter Olympics.
On Friday, Salt Lake City Mayor Jackie Biskupski released a statement apologizing to Wubbels for simply doing her job: “There is currently an Internal Affairs investigation examining the actions, and the Civilian Review Board is conducting a parallel investigation. I have reiterated to Chief Brown that I expect the highest level of professionalism and integrity from his team. I have also instructed Chief Brown to conduct a thorough review of all policies and trainings to ensure respect for all individuals, in all situations. Following the incident Salt Lake City Police Department command met with hospital administration. We immediately changed policies that may have been a factor in this encounter, and the officer’s duties have been modified.”
In a similar statement, Police Chief Mike Brown wrote, “I was alarmed by what I saw in the video with our officer and Ms. Wubbles. I am sad at the rift this has caused between law-enforcement and the nurses we work so closely with. I want to be clear, we take this very seriously. Immediate steps were taken and within 12 hours, body cam footage was reviewed and an internal affairs investigation started. We’ve looked at the actions that took place, the policies that could have prevented it, and the training that must be done. Within 24 hours of this incident, Salt Lake City Police Department took steps to ensure this will never happen again.”
“I just feel betrayed, I feel angry and I feel a lot of things,” Wubbels admitted during a recent press conference. “The only job I have is to keep my patient safe. Blood is your blood. That is your property. When a patient comes in in a critical state, that blood is extremely important. I don’t take it lightly.”
Although Payne has been suspended from the department’s blood draw program, the abusive detective remains on active duty while under internal investigation.
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