The officer didn’t like hearing ‘no.’
The video, just over 19 minutes long, shows nurse Alex Wubbels and her interaction with Salt Lake City police Detective Jeff Payne in July. Payne had arrived at the hospital to attempt to draw blood from a badly injured patient, but Wubbels told him he couldn’t: The patient wasn’t under arrest, Payne didn’t have a warrant, nor did he have the unconscious patient’s consent. Constitutionally, Wubbels couldn’t allow Payne to draw blood from the patient.
Wubbels politely explained why she couldn’t allow Payne, a trained police phlebotomist, to collect the patient’s blood, even though the department’s goal was to protect the patient. The patient, a truck driver, wasn’t the suspect of a crime, but suffered severe burns while on a drive after being hit head-on by a pickup truck driver fleeing police. The suspect had died in the crash, and because they didn’t have probable cause for arrest, they couldn’t obtain a search warrant.
Wubbels even called her supervisor and explained to him the situation, who then told Payne over the phone that he was “making a mistake” because he was threatening a nurse.
That’s when Payne appears to snap in the body camera footage, grabbing at Wubbels’ phone while yelling, “We’re done here,” before pushing her outside through the hospital’s automatic doors. She screams for help and tells the detective he’s assaulting her as other officers and hospital staff attempt to mediate once more.
Salt Lake City Police Chief Mike Brown has called the video “very alarming,” according to Deseret News. Payne has since been removed from the department’s blood draw unit but is on active duty. Wubbels was not criminally charged after the arrest.
Wubbels’ attorney, Karra Porter, said Payne believed he was allowed to collect the patient’s blood under Utah’s “implied consent” law, though the actual law was changed a decade ago. Additionally, last year the U.S. Supreme Court found warrantless blood tests illegal.
“A blood draw, it just gets thrown around like it’s some simple thing,” Wubbles told Deseret News. “But your blood is your blood. That’s your property.”
While Wubbels isn’t currently taking legal action, she and Porter haven’t taken the idea off the table, either.
“I want to see people do the right thing first and I want to see this be a civil discourse,” Wubbels said. “If that’s not something that’s going to happen and there is refusal to acknowledge the need for growth and the need for re-education, then we will likely be forced to take that type of step. But people need to know that this is out there.”
Watch the video of the altercation and subsequent arrest between Wubbels and Payne below:
Update 2:55pm, Sept. 1: Salt Lake City’s mayor and police chief have apologized for how Wubbels was treated. “I was alarmed by what I saw in the video with our officer and Ms. Wubbels,” Police Chief Mike Brown said in a statement. “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. 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.”
Mayor Jackie Biskupski said the city is currently conducting an internal affairs investigation into the incident. “Like many of you, I watched the video of police officers interacting with University of Utah Medical Center nurse Alex Wubbels for the first time through the media late yesterday,” she said in a statement. “What I saw is completely unacceptable to the values of my Administration and of the values of the Salt Lake City Police Department. I extend a personal apology to Ms. Wubbels for what she has been through for simply doing her job.”