Nurse: "Scared to death ... really betrayed" by arrest

“Any nurse I think would have done exactly what I did,” Alex Wubbels told CNN’s Alisyn Camerota on New Day this morning. Wubbels got arrested by a Salt Lake City police officer for refusing to withdraw blood from a patient without a search warrant at the end of July. The video of the arrest went viral after Wubbels released it late last week, as John noted on Friday, and Salt Lake City has been dealing with the fallout ever since.


Wubbels tells Camerota that she feels “really betrayed,” and not just by the SLCPD either:

Wubbels was pressed on what was going through her head when all of this was happening.

“I was scared to death,” she said. “I was obviously very frightened … I really feel betrayed.”

She said she feels betrayed by the police officers and by the university police and security.

Wubbels alerted the university PD when Detective Jeff Payne first got there, feeling he was out of control and a potential problem. They ended up doing nothing, and so Payne told Wubbels that he was going to leave the hospital “with blood vials or a body in tow.” Wubbels stood her ground, and Payne arrested her, pushing her violently out the door in full view of hospital staff … and security cameras, not to mention his own body camera.

Wubbels tells NBC that the police need to police themselves if they want to rebuild trust with the Salt Lake community — and the same goes for the university PD, too:

That’s not an overstatement. The incident touched off anger in the Salt Lake Valley that may still be crescendoing. The Salt Lake Tribune reports that residents in the city have been flooding 911 with protest calls — some of which purport to call in an assault at the hospital, and then describe Wubbels’ arrest by Payne. The SLCPD had to put out a public request giving out a special number for protest calls in order to keep 911 resources from being overwhelmed.


The protest even spread to other communities, prompting other police agencies to distance themselves from Payne while praising Wubbels:

Even Utah police departments that had nothing to do with the episode were feeling the wrath of Wubbels’ arrest. South Salt Lake police spokesman Gary Keller said his department mistakenly received many phone calls and ”nasty” messages about Payne on Friday. In a Facebook post, South Salt Lake police Chief Jack Carruth agreed the video had been “shocking for all of us to see” and commended Wubbels, before clarifying no South Salt Lake officers had been involved. The Unified Police Department similarly pointed people in Salt Lake City‘s direction, adding ”we are two completely different police departments.”

Meanwhile, a criminal probe has been opened into Payne’s conduct:

After meeting with the Salt Lake County district attorney, Salt Lake City officials said Unified would conduct a criminal probe into the episode. An internal affairs unit investigation into Payne’s actions is underway, as is one by the Police Civilian Review Board, Mayor Jackie Biskupski said Friday.

Payne may be risking more than one job. He also moonlights as an EMT, and remarked to other police officers that he might retaliate against University Hospital by dumping transients on them. The SLC Tribune reported that those comments certainly got the attention of his other boss:


Detective Jeff Payne told another officer that he works a second job as a paramedic with Gold Cross Ambulance and brings patients to University Hospital, body camera footage obtained by The Salt Lake Tribune shows.

When the other officer tells Payne that the staff at the hospital probably won’t be very happy with him, Payne responds, ”I’ll bring them all the transients and take good patients elsewhere.” …

Gold Cross President Mike Moffitt said the company was conducting an internal investigation into Payne’s conduct. The company was not aware of the incident prior to media reports Thursday, he said, adding that he was dismayed and surprised as he watched the videos.

For now, Payne finds himself on administrative leave from his police job while the mayor and police chief try to make amends with the hospital and Wubbels:

City officials said late Friday the Unified Police Department would conduct the criminal probe. Meanwhile, an internal affairs investigation by Salt Lake City police into the officer, Detective Jeff Payne, also is ongoing. Payne was placed on administrative leave Friday afternoon, as was a second unnamed officer connected to the confrontation.

Earlier in the day, Brown and Biskupski called the University Hospital nurse, Alex Wubbels, to apologize. They then held a news conference, saying they were alarmed by what they saw on police body camera footage of the arrest, which took place July 26, and said changes to police blood draw policies and officer training had been made.


Wubbels knew the law better than the police. NBC correctly points out that the Supreme Court ruled last year that blood cannot be taken without a warrant or patient consent. The ruling in Birchfield last year related specifically to driving under the influence. In fact, the dissents from Justice Sonia Sotomayor in Birchfield didn’t argue for warrantless blood searches, but to require warrants for breathalyzers, which the majority allowed without warrants. Justice Clarence Thomas wanted to classify blood draws and breathalyzers alike too, but to allow them under exigent circumstances when probable cause for drunk driving existed. However, the accident in this case was caused by a suspect in a police chase, and Payne had no reasonable cause to suspect the patient of being at fault in the accident, let alone being impaired before it.

Oh, and as it turns out, the patient was — wait for it — a police officer who had committed no crime at all. William Gray was working his full-time job as a truck driver when a police chase resulted in a collision with Gray’s truck, but he’s also a reserve officer for the Rigby, Idaho police department. Salt Lake City PD had no reason to suspect that he committed any crime, and the Rigby PD immediately issued a public statement hailing Wubbels’ “heroic” act in protecting his rights:


On July 26th of this year, one of our reserve officers, William Gray was the victim in a horrific accident in northern Utah while working his full-time job as a truck driver. The suspect in this incident was fleeing from Utah State Highway Patrol, when he crossed into oncoming traffic and collided head on with Gray’s truck, severely injuring Gray, and killing himself. Officer Gray was flown to the University of Utah’s burn unit where he remains under their watchful, professional, and competent care. …

The Rigby Police Department would like to thank the nurse involved and hospital staff for standing firm, and protecting Officer Gray’s rights as a patient and victim. Protecting the rights of others is truly a heroic act.

Payne deserves a full hearing to determine his status with law enforcement, and the full benefits of due process. Had Payne concerned himself with due process for Gray, ironically, he wouldn’t need it now. So far, Wubbels has not filed a lawsuit, but it’s a pretty good guess that SLCPD will consider Payne a liability whether she does or not.

By the way, NBC also notes that Wubbels is a former Olympian:

Wubbels is a former Olympic athlete who competed as an Alpine skier in the 1998 and 2002 Winter Olympics. She has worked at the hospital since 2009.

Wubbels gets a gold medal here.


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David Strom 12:40 PM | July 23, 2024