SALT LAKE CITY (KSL) — Alex Wubbels said she couldn’t believe what was happening.
“This is crazy. This is crazy. Why is he so angry?” she can be heard saying on body camera video, nearly in tears, as she is being arrested by Salt Lake police detective Jeff Payne.
Wubbels was working her shift as a charge nurse, or a liaison between patients and doctors and hospital managers, at University Hospital’s Burn Unit in Salt Lake City when she was handcuffed in the middle of her work area, pulled outside and put into a police patrol car for about 20 minutes.
She was arrested after refusing to give Payne vials of blood that he needed for an investigation because she said he did not have a warrant or meet any of the mandatory criteria needed for taking blood.
Wubbels was later released and no charges were ever filed against her. But now, Wubbels and her attorney, Karra Porter, want the public to hear her story and see the disturbing body camera video.
On Thursday, Wubbels held a press conference to show the video and called for better training of police officers so that “harassment,” as she calls it, of hospital doctors and nurses stops.
“I just feel betrayed, I feel angry. I feel a lot of things. And I am still confused. I’m a health care worker. The only job I have is to keep my patients safe. A blood draw, it just gets thrown around there like it’s some simple thing. But blood is your blood. That’s your property. And when a patient comes in in a critical state, that blood is extremely important and I don’t take it lightly,” she said.
The July 26 incident was caught on the body cameras of Payne and another officer.
“Stop! I’ve done nothing wrong,” Wubbels cries out in the video as she’s being handcuffed. “This is unnecessary.”
The incident began when a truck driver was severely burned in a head-on crash with a vehicle that was fleeing from police in Cache County and crossed into on-coming traffic. The driver of the fleeing vehicle was killed.
The truck driver was sedated and in a comatose state when he arrived at the hospital.
Payne, a veteran Salt Lake police officer, was sent to the hospital by another police agency to get vials of blood for the investigation. But because the patient was not a suspect in the crash, did not face potential criminal charges, was unconscious and unable to give consent, and the officer did not have a warrant, Wubbels — one of the supervisors that night — did not allow him to draw blood.
“If they needed blood, then they needed to go through to proper channels to take it,” she said.
In the body camera video, Wubbels is seen on her phone with numerous supervisors advising them of what was happening and getting confirmation about the policy. Payne sounds impatient in the video and continues to threaten to arrest her.
Wubbels, who is surrounded by other hospital staffers, explains in the video that she is doing what her bosses told her to do. She eventually prints out a copy of the policy for blood draws — one that Salt Lake police agreed to more than a year ago, according to Porter — and shows it to the officer.
Wubbels said close to 10 supervisors were consulted either directly by herself or by the supervisors checking with their own superiors.
But Payne insists he, too, is following orders.
“I’m doing what I’m being told by my boss, and I’m going to do what my boss says,” Payne says sternly at one point in the recording.
Wubbels can be seen trying to tell Payne to calm down while telling her boss on the phone that Payne was threatening to arrest her, and that a University of Utah police officer who was present wasn’t going to stop him.
“She’s going to jail,” Payne says in the video.
“Why?” a hospital staff member asks.
“Interfering with a criminal investigation,” Payne replies.
At one point, Wubbels is heard telling her supervisor that she does not feel safe, before telling Payne, “I don’t know why you’re being threatening.”
“Sir, you’re making a huge mistake right now,” a supervisor is heard telling Payne right before he places Wubbels in handcuffs.
“I’m leaving now, with her,” Payne declares after being told again he can’t have the blood without a warrant. She was taken out of the hospital and put in a police car.
The Supreme Court on Thursday placed new limits on state laws that make it a crime for motorists suspected of drunken driving to refuse alcohol tests.
Porter said Payne argued that he was allowed to take the blood through a process known as “implied consent.” But she said that law was changed years ago.
“The law is well-established. And it’s not what we were hearing in the video,” Porter said. “I don’t know what was driving this situation.”
After the handcuffs are taken off of Wubbels, several hospital staff members are seen hugging her in the video outside the police car. She said she has seen the video four or five times and still gets emotional each time she watches it, as she did on Thursday.
Salt Lake Police Sgt. Brandon Shearer said Thursday that Chief Mike Brown has seen the video and called it “very alarming.” Payne is still on active duty with the department, but Shearer said he has been suspended from the blood draw program and an active internal investigation is underway.
Shearer also admitted that the department’s blood-draw policy “hadn’t been updated for a little bit” when the incident occurred. But since then, the policy has been changed and training is scheduled to make sure all officers are up to date on the policy, he said.
When asked what she thinks should happen to Payne, Wubbels was reserved in her comments, only stating, “I think he needs some serious training.”
Porter said what is just as disturbing are comments caught on Payne’s body camera video while he was talking to another officer. Payne can be heard talking about his other job as an ambulance driver, and how Wubbels’ arrest might affect that.
“I’ll bring ’em all the transients and take the good patients elsewhere,” he is heard saying about the hospital.
“Even if he’s joking, this is not funny,” Porter said. “I mean, there are so many things wrong with that statement I can’t even begin.”
Wubbels has not filed any civil action against the police agencies involved.
“I think right now, I believe in the goodness of society. I want to see people do the right thing first and I want to see this be a civil discourse. And if that’s not something that’s going to happen and there is refusal to acknowledge the need for growth and the need for re-education, then we will likely be forced to take that type of step. But people need to know that this is out there,” she said.
Porter complimented Salt Lake City for listening to her client’s concerns and stepping up to the plate. But Porter could not say the same for the University of Utah police, whose officer condoned what was happening by not stepping in, she said.
“We don’t have confidence that changes will be made at University of Utah police … unless we went forward in this way,” Porter said Thursday.
A call placed to the university police department was not immediately returned Thursday.
Wubbels, whose maiden name is Alex Shaffers, was a two-time Olympian in alpine skiing, competing in the 1998 and 2002 Winter Olympics. She credits the toughness she learned from being an Olympic athlete for getting her through the ordeal.