(YouTube/Salt Lake Tribune)

Nurse assaulted by Salt Lake City police officer after she explained that he couldn't break the law

A nurse was manhandled after she tells officers taking blood from an unconscious patient breaks policy


Charlie May
September 1, 2017 3:09PM (UTC)

A police officer's body camera captured a harrowing scene — a hospital nurse being manhandled and arrested after she explained to a Salt Lake City police officer that she was merely following protocol when she did not allow him to take blood from a patient who was unconscious.

Detective Jeff Payne was in a standoff situation with nurse Alex Wubbels at University Hospital after the nurse had to explain the law that prevented the officer from taking a blood sample from a patient who was injured in a car crash on July 26, according to the Salt Lake Tribune.

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Wubbels read from the policy that there are three things that would allow the officers to obtain a blood sample: an electronic warrant, patient consent, or if the patient is under arrest. The nurse, who was visibly uneasy about standing up to law enforcement while on the phone with her supervisor, explained that none of those things applied. Payne also acknowledged that they do not have a warrant.

"I'm just trying to do what I'm supposed to do, that's all," Wubbels nervously explained.

"So I take it, without those in place, I'm not going to get blood," Payne responded.

"Why are you blaming the messenger, sir?" a supervisor on the phone with Wubbels asked the officer.

"She's the one that has told me no," Payne replied.

"Yeah but sir you're making a huge mistake right now," the supervisor explained, "because you're threatening a nurse."

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At that point Payne reached for Wubbels, and told her she was under arrest as she backed away. He grabbed her while she screamed that she had done nothing wrong.

"Help! Help! Somebody help me! Stop! Stop! I did nothing wrong!" Wubbels yelled.

Salt Lake Police Sgt. Brandon Shearer said that an ongoing internal investigation is underway, the Tribune reported. But the officer was not suspended, he was only suspended from the department's blood-draw program "where officers are trained as phlebotomists so they can get blood samples — but he remains on duty with the Police Department," Shearer said, according to the Tribune.

The Tribune elaborated:

Payne — who says he wanted the blood sample to protect the patient, not punish him — said he was advised by Lt. James Tracy, the watch commander on duty that night, to arrest Wubbels for interfering with a police investigation if she refused to let him get the sample, according to his report.

Tracy said in his report that he spoke on the phone with Wubbels and told her he believed that they had implied consent to get the sample, but she cut him off and said she would not allow the draw without a warrant. He then went to the hospital and tried to tell the nurse why she was in custody, but “she appeared to not want to hear my explanation,” Tracy wrote.

"Implied consent" hasn't been the law in Utah since 2007, and ruling by the U.S. Supreme Court in 2016 ruled that while the Constitution allows warrantless breath tests, warrantless blood tests are not allowed, the Tribune reported. Karra Porter, a Salt Lake City attorney who is representing Wubbels, said that there has been no lawsuit filed at this point in time, "but she has had discussions with Salt Lake City police and she believes the department will educate its officers."

Wubbels was never charged with a crime.

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Charlie May

Charlie May is a news writer at Salon. You can find him on Twitter at @charliejmay

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