The head nurse at the University of Utah Hospital’s burn unit claims she was assaulted and unlawfully arrested by Salt Lake City police officers in late July when she refused to let police take a blood sample from an unconscious crash victim who had been brought to the hospital.
Hospital and officer body camera footage captures the moment nurse Alex Wubbels told officers that it was against the hospital’s policy to draw blood from an unconscious patient without a warrant. The patient, a semi-truck driver, was severely burned when his truck was struck by a car that was being pursued by state troopers.
As the Washington Post notes:
The detective didn’t have a warrant, first off. And the patient wasn’t conscious, so he couldn’t give consent. Without that, the detective was barred from collecting blood samples — not just by hospital policy, but by basic constitutional law.
The U.S. Supreme Court has explicitly ruled that blood can only be drawn from drivers for probable cause, with a warrant.
“I either go away with blood in vials or body in tow,” Detective Jeff Payne told Wubbels moments before he placed her under arrest, grabbing her arms and handcuffing her as she screams for help.
Wubbels screamed “help me” and “you’re assaulting me” as the detective dragged her into an unmarked car and accused her of interfering with an investigation.
Payne said he was advised by his commander on duty to arrest the nurse for interfering with a police investigation.
The Salt Lake Tribune reports that Payne is still on duty with the police department but he has been suspended from the department’s blood draw program.
At a press conference on Thursday, Wubbels shared the video and explained, “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.”
Salt Lake police spokesman Sgt. Brandon Shearer told local media that Salt Lake City Police Chief Mike Brown had seen the video and called it “very alarming,” according to the Deseret News.
The police department has launched an internal investigation.
Wubbels was not criminally charged in the incident.