SALT LAKE CITY >> A Utah police officer whose rough arrest of a hospital nurse has drawn condemnation put the woman in handcuffs even after investigators told him not to worry about getting a blood sample he was seeking from a patient, the chief whose department asked for it said today.
Officers initially wanted the sample as a routine part of a car crash investigation, said Logan Police Chief Gary Jensen. But after Salt Lake City Police detective Jeff Payne was told he’d need a warrant or formal consent to get it, colleagues told him that they would pursue another strategy.
“He simply said, ‘Don’t worry about it. We’ll go another way,’” Jensen said.
Payne nevertheless insisted. When nurse Alex Wubbels held her ground based on the University of Utah hospital’s policy, Payne dragged her screaming from the hospital in handcuffs. Salt Lake City police apologized and put Payne on paid leave after dramatic video of the July 26 arrest surfaced.
Police spokeswoman Christina Judd said an internal review will look at the directions Payne received and how he responded.
Prosecutors also opened a criminal investigation that widened Thursday when the district attorney asked the FBI to look into possible civil rights violations.
Payne’s lawyer, Greg Skordas, declined to comment Friday.
Payne was supported by his supervisor, Lt. James Tracy, who is shown on the body-camera video continuing to insist that police have the right to get the blood after Wubbels was handcuffed in a police car.
Tracy’s lawyer told the Deseret News that he’s been the target of multiple online threats and had to shut down his social media pages since the video was released. Attorney Ed Brass said Tracy has served Salt Lake City for nearly 30 years, and judgment should be withheld until a full investigation is complete. Tracy has also been placed on paid leave.
The patient, William Gray of Rigby, Idaho, had been driving a tractor-trailer in northern Utah when he was hit head-on by a man fleeing from Utah Highway Patrol troopers in a pickup truck.
The troopers had tried to stop the pickup for reckless driving but the man sped away, the highway patrol said in a statement. The pickup driver was killed when the two vehicles collided. The semi exploded and caught fire.
Gray was flown 75 miles south to the University of Utah hospital’s burn unit. Police from Logan, near the scene of the crash, were called in to investigate.
Though Gray wasn’t suspected of wrongdoing, officers routinely test everyone involved in serious accidents to make sure they’ve investigated every aspect of the crash, Jensen said.
Logan police asked for help from Salt Lake City police because the hospital was so far away, and Payne was sent there because he belonged to a unit trained to perform blood draws.
Police body camera video shows Payne telling his supervisor he’s discussed the situation with Logan police and that they’re not angry about not getting the blood immediately.