Utah police officer fired after handcuffing, dragging nurse from hospital

UTAH — A Utah police officer has been fired after handcuffing and dragging a nurse from a hospital.

A Salt Lake City police spokesman said Chief Mike Brown made the decision Tuesday following an investigation into Detective Jeff Payne, who made the arrest that became a flashpoint in the ongoing national conversation about police use of force. Payne’s lawyer, Greg Skordas, has pointed to the officer’s decorated 27-year history and questioned whether his behavior warranted termination.

Payne in early September was fired from his job as a part-time paramedic. Now, he’s been fired from the police department.

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. It happened after she refused to let officers draw blood from an unconscious patient.

Gold Cross Ambulance said on September 6th that Payne’s termination was effective immediately.

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

Payne’s firing from his paramedic job came 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.

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 26th 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.