Officer involved in Utah nurse arrest fired from paramedic job

A Salt Lake City, Utah, detective who arrested a nurse after she refused to let officers draw blood from an unconscious patient has been fired from his job as a part-time paramedic.

Detective Jeff Payne’s July arrest of Alex Wubbels, the charge nurse at the University of Utah Hospital burn unit, was captured on bodycam video and later drew national attention, prompting apologies from Salt Lake City’s mayor and police.

Gold Cross Ambulance said Tuesday that Payne’s termination was effective immediately.

The Salt Lake City police has placed Payne and another officer on administrative leave pending the results of an investigation.

Payne’s firing from his paramedic job comes a day after the University of Utah Hospital announced a new protocol: Nurses will no longer be allowed to interact with law enforcement agents.

“I need to make sure this never, ever, ever happens to another one of our care providers again,” said Margaret Pearce, chief nursing officer at the hospital.

Instead of interacting with nurses, law enforcement officers will be directed to health supervisors “who are highly trained on rules and laws,” and those interactions won’t take place in patient care areas, officials said.

The new protocol was implemented two weeks after the incident, and so far, 2,500 nurses have been trained in it, Pearce said.

Hospital CEO Gordon Crabtree described Wubbels as an “Olympic-sized hero,” praising her for acting with the highest level of integrity and professionalism, even as she risked her own safety to ensure the privacy of her patient.

“This type of situation won’t happen again,” he said. “We simply will not let Alex down.”

‘I’ve done nothing wrong!’

Citing hospital policy, Wubbels on July 26 refused to let officers draw blood from an unconscious crash victim who had been admitted to the hospital’s burn unit in a coma. The man was not a suspect in the wreck, which killed another driver, but police asked for his blood to be drawn.

Wubbels presented the officers with a printout of the hospital’s policy for drawing blood and said their request did not meet the criteria. Hospital policy specified that before obtaining a blood sample, police needed a judge’s order or the patient’s consent, or the patient needed to be under arrest.

The university and Salt Lake City police had agreed to the policy more than a year ago, but “the officers here appeared to be unaware of” it during the July incident, Wubbels’ attorney, Karra Porter, said Friday.

After the nurse’s refusal, the video shows Payne walk quickly over to Wubbels, who backs away as he says, “Oh, please. We’re done here. We’re done. We’re done.”

Wubbels shrieks as Payne forces her out the door toward a police car. She screams for him to stop, saying, “I’ve done nothing wrong! I’ve done nothing wrong! Why is this happening? This is crazy!” She also asks why the officer is “so angry.”

Payne handcuffed Wubbels and placed her in a police car, where she sat for about 20 minutes, according to CNN affiliate KSL. She was later released without charge.

In a police report, Payne said that when he arrived at the hospital, Wubbels said he needed to get permission from the hospital administrators.

After more than an hour of waiting, Payne said, he called his supervisor, who advised him to arrest Wubbels if she refused to let him draw a blood sample.

“I told them we wanted to blood sample to protect him, not punish him,” he wrote.

‘I stood my ground’

On Monday, Wubbels and Porter discussed how the confrontation unfolded on CNN’s “New Day.”

While legal action is under consideration, “I think we’re going to give everyone involved an opportunity to do the right thing without having to be dragged into court to do it,” the lawyer said.

Wubbels said she managed to get the bodycam video weeks ago but waited to release it until she felt composed enough to talk about what happened.

“I feel pretty strongly in just having, sort of, a good strong ability to stand up without emotion. And I need to afford myself some time to feel OK and to be able to talk pragmatically about the situation without the emotion,” she said.

Wubbels said she has no idea how the situation escalated.

“What I can say is that I stood my ground. I stood for what was right, which was to protect the patient. As a nurse, any nurse, I think, would have done exactly what I did,” she said.

Wubbels said she was “scared to death” at the time.

“Obviously, I was very frightened, and I think that since this has happened, I’ve been able to, sort of, surmise that I feel betrayed,” she said. “I feel betrayed by the police officers. I feel betrayed by my university police and security.”

Wubbels asked hospital security for help “to have someone protect me because I felt unsafe from Officer Payne from the beginning,” she said.

How did the university police and security respond? “By just standing there, looking at their phones,” she said, “telling me that they couldn’t protect me.”