Utah Nurse Alex Wubbels has won a $500,000 settlement after being violently arrested by police at The Utah University Hospital for refusing a police officer’s demand that she draw a blood sample from an unconscious car crash patient. Police body cam video shows an officer grab Wubbels, dragging her out of the hospital and into an unmarked car. The incident happened on July 26 but the story went viral when bodycam footage was released weeks later.
In the video, Salt Lake City Detective Jeff Payne is seen arguing with Utah nurse Alex Wubbels, the charge nurse working the night shift on the burn unit at Utah University Hospital. Wubbels was following hospital protocol and the law when she calmly refused to allow a blood draw on an unconscious patient without consent or a warrant. She presented the officers with a printout of hospital policy on drawing blood and said their request did not meet the criteria. Hospital policy specified police needed either a judge’s order or the patient’s consent, or the patient needed to be under arrest, before obtaining a blood sample.
The dispute ended with Payne handcuffing Wubbels and dragging her outside while she screamed that she’d done nothing wrong. She was detained for 20 minutes and later released without charge. Salt Lake City police detective Jeff Payne insisted on drawing the blood, maintaining in his report that he wanted the sample to protect the man rather than prosecute him. He was supported by his supervisor, Lt. James Tracy, who said the nurse could be arrested if she didn’t agree.
After the footage surfaced, the hospital said police would no longer be permitted in patient care areas, such as the burn unit where Wubbels was working that day. Payne had 20 years on the force at the time. He and a second officer, Lt. James Tracy, were put on full paid administrative leave by Salt Lake City police during an investigation involving the FBI. On Oct. 11th, the Salt Lake City Police Department announced that Payne had been fired and Lt. James Tracy was demoted over the incident.
The patient in question, William Gray, was a reserve police officer with the Rigby, Idaho police department. He worked as a truck driver and had been severely burned following a fiery head-on crash caused by a man in a pickup truck who was fleeing the Utah State Highway Patrol. He spent two months in the University of Utah burn center before he passed away on September 25th.
Karra Porter, Wubbels’ attorney said her client has met the five goals she set when this incident occurred. She wanted changes to policy, accountability from those who were involved in the incident, to start a public discussion about the urgent need for body cameras, to be compensated and to help other people who have a need for evidence obtained on body cam videos when these types of situations happen to them. Wubbels said she plans to use a portion of the settlement toward a new initiative to help others pay for access to police body camera video clips. “We all deserve to know the truth and the truth comes when you see the actual raw footage and that’s what happened in my case,” Wubbels said. “Any person in the State of Utah who wishes to obtain body cam footage of an incident involving them will be able to do so, no charge to them. Our law firm, Christensen & Jensen, will provide any legal services necessary to accomplish that,” Porter said. “Thanks to Alex, there will be more transparency.”