A Utah nurse and her attorney have released video footage showing an officer roughly arresting her at University of Utah Hospital in Salt Lake City. They say it amounts to assault.
The video shows an officer aggressively handcuffing nurse Alex Wubbels after she refuses to allow him to draw blood from an unconscious patient.
That’s after she calmly explained to him that it is against hospital policy to allow blood to be drawn without a warrant or the patient’s consent, unless the patient is under arrest.
The video was released Thursday and has since gained national attention, prompting a joint news conference Friday with the city’s mayor and police chief.
When asked by a reporter why this level of force was necessary, Salt Lake City Mayor Jackie Biskupski was clear: “It was not necessary. That’s what we’re here to say. And we are truly apologetic.”
The incident is centered on Wubbels — a former Olympic skier, according to The Salt Lake Tribune — and a police detective identified in local media as Jeff Payne. The Salt Lake City Police Department declined to release his name. According to the Tribune, Payne was seeking a blood sample “from a patient who had been injured in a July 26 collision in northern Utah that left another driver dead.”
You can watch the video here:
In the footage, Wubbels holds a document detailing hospital policy. She reads aloud to the detective that for law enforcement to obtain blood samples from patients suspected of being under the influence, police must either present an electronic warrant, gain patient consent or have the patient under arrest.
“The patient can’t consent,” she says to a person on the phone, who appears to be a hospital administrator. “And he’s told me repeatedly that he doesn’t have a warrant. And the patient is not under arrest. So I’m just trying to do what I’m supposed to do, that’s all.”
The police officer says: “So I take it without those in place, I’m not going to get blood. Am I fair to surmise that?”
The nurse appears confused. “I have no idea why he’s blaming me,” she tells her colleague on the phone, who then asks the officer why he’s “blaming the messenger” and tells him that he’s “making a huge mistake.”
The police officer then suddenly lunges at the nurse, yelling, “We’re done, you’re under arrest, you’re going,” as she screams, “Somebody help me, please!” He continues muttering “We’re done” as he forces her outside and roughly cuffs her hands behind her back.
“I’ve done nothing wrong!” Wubbels cries.
“This has upended her worldview in a way. She just couldn’t believe this could happen,” her lawyer, Karra Porter, told The Associated Press.
Last year, the Supreme Court issued an opinion stating that warrantless blood tests associated with arrests for drunken driving are not permitted under the Fourth Amendment.
“That was not a just arrest,” the mayor said. “She was released that evening without leaving the grounds of the hospital. Again, the circumstances are unacceptable and we are very apologetic.”
Police Chief Mike Brown told reporters that the officer has been suspended from the department’s blood draw duty. He remains on modified duty and is not working in the field, Brown said, pending the results of an internal investigation that was started within 12 hours of the incident. Biskupski added that there is a parallel Civilian Review Board investigation ongoing.
“I was alarmed by what I saw in the video with our officer and Ms. Wubbels,” said Brown. “I am sad at the rift this has caused between law enforcement and the nurses we work so closely with.”
He said that the department “took steps to ensure this will never happen again,” including changing its blood draw policy.