Criminal Justice

Cop arrests nurse after she says he needs warrant or consent for patient blood draw; see the video

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Screenshot of Utah nurse Alex Wubbels being arrested.

Updated: A Salt Lake City police detective who arrested a nurse who refused to allow him to draw blood from an unconscious patient without a warrant is the subject of an internal police department investigation and a parallel investigation by the department's Civilian Review Board.

Video of the July 26 incident was aired Thursday during a news conference attended by the nurse, Alex Wubbels, and her lawyer, Karra Porter. The Washington Post, the Salt Lake Tribune and Deseret News have coverage.

Det. Jeff Payne wanted the blood draw from a trucker injured in a crash with a vehicle driven by a man fleeing from police. The fleeing driver was killed and Payne says he wanted the blood draw to protect the trucker.

In the video, Wubbels is shown speaking on the phone with her supervisor and explaining hospital policy to the officer. She says the officer has been threatening to arrest her. The supervisor asks the officer, “Why are you blaming the messenger, sir?” and tells the officer he is making “a huge mistake” by threatening arrest.

At that point, Payne repeatedly exclaims, “We’re done.” The officer forces the nurse toward his squad car as she screams, “Stop!” and, “You’re assaulting me.” He slaps on cuffs as she yells, “I’ve done nothing wrong.”

Wubbels, a former Olympic skier, was not charged. She sat in the patrol car for about 20 minutes before being released.

Payne said in a written report that his watch commander had told him to arrest Wubbels for interfering in the investigation if she refused to allow the blood draw.

Wubbels was supported not only by hospital policy, but also by a U.S. Supreme Court ruling, the Washington Post says. The newspaper points to Birchfield v. North Dakota, a June 2016 decision that found states may not prosecute suspected drunken drivers for refusing warrantless blood draws.

Wubbels has not filed a lawsuit, but she hasn’t ruled it out. During the news conference, Wubbels and Porter said they wanted to call attention to the incident to highlight the need for better training for police officers.

Payne has been suspended from the blood draw unit but remains on duty during the investigation, Salt Lake Police Sgt. Brandon Shearer told the Deseret News. He also said the department’s blood draw policy has been updated since the incident.

On Friday, Salt Lake Mayor Mayor Jackie Biskupski apologized for the incident, and Police Chief Mike Brown said the department has already apologized and taken steps to ensure it never happens again, the Salt Lake Tribune reports.

Brown said in a statement that he was alarmed by what he saw in the video. “I want to be clear, we take this very seriously,” he said.

Biskupski noted in the statement that there is an internal police investigation as well as an investigation by the Civilian Review Board.

“Like many of you, I watched the video of police officers interacting with University of Utah Medical Center nurse Alex Wubbles (sic) for the first time through the media late yesterday,” Biskupski said. “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. Wubbles for what she has been through for simply doing her job.”

Updated at 1:10 p.m. to include statements by the mayor and police chief.

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