The Salt Lake County District Attorney’s Office recently sent a formal request to the FBI asking the federal bureau to investigate the circumstances surrounding Det. Jeff Payne’s unlawful arrest of a nurse who refused to illegally draw blood from her patient without consent, a court order, or a search warrant. In his letter, Salt Lake County District Attorney Sim Gill also requested for the FBI to investigate any other officers depicted in the police body cam videos who failed “to act when imposed with a duty to act.”
On July 26, Utah Highway Patrol dash cam videos recorded a suspect named Marcos Torres fleeing along the interstate when he suddenly turned into oncoming traffic and crashed his vehicle head-on into a truck driven by a reserve police officer named William Gray from Rigby, Idaho. Suffering from severe burns, Gray arrived at the University of Utah Hospital’s burn unit in a comatose state, while Torres died at the scene.
Although Gray was not suspected of committing any crimes, Salt Lake City Police Detective Jeff Payne ordered the burn unit’s head nurse, Alex Wubbels, to draw the victim’s blood in order to test for drugs or alcohol. While consulting with her supervisor, Wubbels refused the unlawful order because Payne had failed to obtain a warrant, her patient was unable to give consent, and her patient was not under arrest.
Recorded on police body cam videos, Det. Payne visibly lost his temper before placing Wubbels under arrest, escorting her outside, and slamming her against a wall. As the nurse cried out in confusion and pain, several officers appeared in the videos witnessing the civil rights violation and taking no action to stop the unlawful arrest.
“We request your investigation to examine and consider whether actions by Det. Payne, other police officers and law enforcement personnel and anyone else acting under the color of authority constitutes criminal conduct, criminal civil rights violations, or other violations of law,” District Attorney Gill wrote in a letter to the FBI on Wednesday.
“In order to be thorough, and given the gravity of the rights potentially implicated, all issues must be completely examined to restore the public trust currently compromised by the actions depicted in the publicly released video recordings of the incident,” Gill continued. “It is essential that all individuals and institutions associated with this incident should be investigated to document the roles they played in the incident to prevent such a thing from happening again.”
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.
Following the release of the police body cam videos that recorded the incident, Salt Lake City Mayor Jackie Biskupski and Police Chief Mike Brown issued a joint statement apologizing to Wubbels for “simply doing her job.” Besides removing Payne from the department’s blood draw program, Brown later placed the detective on paid leave pending an internal investigation.
On Tuesday, Payne was reportedly fired from his part-time paramedic job at Gold Cross Ambulance after telling another officer in the video that he would “bring them all the transients and take good patients elsewhere” if Wubbels refused to draw her patient’s blood. In a recent interview with The Washington Post, Gold Cross Ambulance President Mike Moffitt asserted, “That’s not the way we treat people in our city.”
On Thursday, the FBI confirmed that a federal investigation has been launched into the incident. After further review of Payne’s body cam footage, Logan Police Chief Gary Jensen concluded that his officers did not insist upon Payne to obtain blood from the victim without a warrant or probable cause.