SALT LAKE CITY, Utah — The Utah police detective who arrested a burn unit nurse for explaining that he needed a warrant in order to withdraw blood from an unconscious crash victim as per the police department’s agreement with the hospital has now been fired from his part-time paramedic job for remarking to another officer that he would “take the good patients elsewhere.”
Salt Lake City Police Department Detective Jeff Payne told another officer during the July 26 incident, as captured on his body camera, that he wondered how the scuffle and arrest would “affect [his] Gold Cross” job.
“I’ll bring ’em all the transients and take the good patients elsewhere,” he remarked.
Payne had worked as a paramedic for Gold Cross Ambulance for over 30 years, even before he began serving as a detective.
However, footage released last week of his manhandling and arrest of University of Utah Hospital burn unit nurse Alex Wubbels outraged many viewers, some of whom contacted the ambulance company and called for his termination.
Payne “violated several company policies and left a poor image of the company,” Gold Cross President Mike Moffitt told the Salt Lake Tribune. It was therefore determined that “it was best to part ways” with Payne.
“Although Jeff was not working for Gold Cross Ambulance at the time of the incident, we take his inappropriate remarks regarding patient transports seriously,” the company said in a public statement on Tuesday.
“We acknowledge those concerned individuals who have contacted us regarding this incident and affirm our commitment to serving all members of the community with kindness and respect,” it remarked. “We will continue to maintain our values of outstanding patient focused care, safety and the complete trust of the communities we serve.”
Moffitt said that Payne’s behavior was “uncharacteristic” of what he had witnessed for the past 30 years.
As previously reported, on July 26, Utah Highway Patrol was involved in a chase with driver Marcos Torres, 26, in Cache County after he was reported for driving recklessly. Torres soon crossed into oncoming traffic and smashed into a semi head-on, which was driven by 43-year-old William Gray. The truck burst into flames.
While Torres died from his injuries on the scene, Gray, who works as a reserve police officer when not driving semis, was transported to University of Utah Hospital, where he was treated for severe burns.
Payne later arrived at the hospital’s burn unit to request samples of Gray’s blood to determine if he had drugs in his system, as directed by another agency. The Salt Lake City Police Department’s blood draw program trains participating officers as phlebotomists so that they can draw the vials themselves.
However, on-duty nurse Alex Wubbels explained to Payne that he needed to meet one of three conditions as per the police department’s agreement with the hospital: 1) obtain consent from the patient 2) obtain a warrant or 3) the patient must be under arrest.
As Gray was not under arrest since he was the victim in the incident, and as he was in a comatose state and was therefore not able to give consent, Wubbels outlined to Payne that he would need to obtain an electronic warrant. She proceeded to contact numerous supervisors to ask what to do about the situation.
Becoming unhappy with her answers, Detective Payne repeatedly threatened that he was going to arrest Wubbels and take her to jail.
“I either go away with blood in vials or body in tow,” he warned.
With another staff member at her side to provide assistance, Wubbels soon printed out the hospital policy for blood draws and read it to Payne, advising him that he needs to meet one of the three conditions.
“This is something that you guys agreed to with this hospital,” she explained calmly.
Wubbels also placed one of the supervisors on speaker phone to talk to Payne about the matter himself.
“The patient can’t consent, he’s told me repeatedly that he doesn’t have a warrant, and the patient is not under arrest,” she explained to the supervisor. “I’m just trying to do what I’m supposed to do, that’s all.”
“So, I take it [that] without those in place, I’m not going to get blood. Am I fair to surmise that?” Payne asked.
The supervisor, who advised Wubbels that she was simply relaying the information, then asked Payne why he was “blaming the messenger,” and he replied that it was because she was the one who was denying his request.
The supervisor then warned Payne sternly, “Sir, you’re making a huge mistake because you’re threatening a nurse.”
“We’re done!” he declared, grabbing for Wubbels phone. “You’re under arrest!”
She backed away from the officer, but Payne continued to move toward Wubbels and within seconds, he physically grabbed the nurse and forced her out the door.
“Somebody help me! Stop! Stop! I did nothing wrong!” she exclaimed, screaming. “You’re assaulting me! Stop!”
Other hospital employees tried to reason with Payne, who handcuffed Wubbles, but to no avail.
“She’s under arrest,” Payne said.
“For doing her job?” the employee asked.
“I’ve done my job; she’s done hers,” Payne replied.
Wubbles was released 20 minutes later, and has not been charged with any crime.
According to the Salt Lake Tribune, Payne outlined in a report on the incident that he had been advised by Lt. James Tracy, the commander on duty that evening, to arrest Wubbles for interfering with a police investigation if she declined to allow him to take the blood sample. He said that he had been told that “implied consent” was sufficient.
Detective Payne, along with another officer who has not been identified, has now been placed on paid administrative leave by the police department, and is also under a criminal investigation initiated by Salt Lake District Attorney Sam Gill.