On July 26, Officer Jeff L. Payne demanded that nurse Alex Wubbels of the University of Utah Hospital in Rigby obtain a blood sample on car crash victim William Gray in order to investigate his involvement in the accident. Wubbels refused to obey Payne’s request, as hospital policy states nurses cannot test people unless patients give formal consent, are under arrest, or have a warrant against them.
The unconscious patient could not give formal consent, and Payne did not have a warrant, nor was the patient under arrest. Payne told Wubbels that she would have to perform the blood test, or she would go to jail. On speakerphone, Wubbels’ boss informed Payne that he was making a “huge mistake” in threatening to take this nurse to jail for supposedly “interfering with an investigation.” Administrators at the hospital supported Wubbles’ decision to follow the hospital policy and law.
With a voice full of fear after listening to Payne’s threats, Wubbles told the officer, “I’m just trying to do what I’m supposed to do. That’s all.” Shortly after this, Payne reached for the nurse’s arm, repeating the phrase, “we’re done.” Startled by his sudden action, Wubbles backed away, asking him to stop, but Payne only became more aggressive after her resistance. He lunged at her, forced her out of the hospital, and pushed her against a wall, handcuffing her arms behind her back. Wubbles, terrified and upset, cried and screamed for him to stop. Those witnessing the event told Payne that his actions were “unnecessary,” but Payne refused to stop.
Police released Wubbels after for 20 minutes, and she will face no criminal charges. The released video resulted in the mayor of Salt Lake City, Jackie Biskupski, presenting a formal apology for Payne’s actions. Police chief Mike Brown ensured that the town would do everything in its power to fully investigate the situation and uphold the trust of the city.
Hoping for help in said investigation, prosecutors sent a letter to FBI agents, illustrating the severity of the situation. The police in Rigby publicly announced that they sided with Ms. Wubbels in the event, and the police department placed Payne on administrative leave as they investigate his actions. Payne also lost his job as a paramedic at the Gold Cross Ambulance.
After this incident, the hospital instituted a policy that prohibits police officers from patient-care areas in hopes of preventing similar incidents from occurring again. In interviews, Wubbels speaks on hope for “productive discussion” about the incident that will steer officers away from such aggressive, close-minded tendencies.
(Sources: NY Times, The Washington Post)