Every single day, nurses all over the world go above and beyond the call of duty to help their patients. They often work long, tiring hours and many thankless days dealing with all sorts of difficult scenarios, never failing to be quick on their feet.
That’s why the story of one brave Utah nurse is making headlines for all the wrong reasons, after the woman did everything in her power to put herself before her own patient…
Today, Alex Wubbels is known for a different kind of fame, but back in the 1990s and 2000s, this Aspen, Colorado native was a star athlete. Known then by her maiden name Alex Shaffer, she attended the prestigious Rowland Hall and competed on their ski team, which trains at the Park City Olympic facility.
Alex went on to compete at the 1998 and 2002 Winter Olympics as an alpine skier. She married All-American Nordic skier Cory Wubbels in June 2014. Besides being a pro skier, Corey is also a carpenter, a guitar player, and dad after the couple had their first child in December 2014.
However, today Alex Webbels has put her Olympic past behind her and decided to focus on a different passion. Since 2009, Webbels has been a nurse at the University Hospital in Salt Lake City, where she currently works in the Level 1 Trauma Center. Being the only dedicated burn unit in the Mountain West region, Wubbels sees some of the sickest patients in the State and often deals with law enforcement.
Every day is a crazy one in the life of a nurse, but on July 26th, 2017, Wubbels had an encounter she’ll never forget. She was working in the trauma unit when a 43-year-old truck driver was rushed in after crashing his semi head-on into a suspect who was fleeing Utah Highway Patrol officers…
Dead On Arrival
The suspected driver who fled the police, 26-year-old Marcos Torres, died in the crash. However, the other man, William Gray, was a reserve police officer from Rigby, Idaho, who drives trucks in his spare time. He was able to get out of the vehicle and was still alive, although he suffered with severe burns.
Although Gray was unconscious and in bad shape a few hours after the crash, Wubbels and other hospital staff were confident he was going to survive. Yet when officers from the Salt Lake City Police Department went to University Hospital and requested to have nurses draw a blood sample from Gray, they were met with reluctance…
According to the Supreme Court, police officers need probable cause to take blood samples from drivers and breath tests should be used instead. However, the officer, Salt Lake City detective Jeff Payne wrote in his report that he felt he had “implied consent”, even though that hasn’t been a law in Utah since 2007.
What happens next can be recounted from Payne’s police bodycam recording, in which Wubbels can be heard saying that it’s against hospital policy to draw blood from a patient without consent or a warrant, unless the patient is under arrest. Wubbels could then be heard asking Payne and other officers numerous times if Gray was under arrest, to which they answered that he was not.
During the recording, Det. Payne said he was responding to a request from the Logan Police Department to extract the blood. “I’m doing what I’m being told by my boss, and I’m going to do what my boss says.” From there, complete chaos ensued, with Officer Payne saying Wubbels was interfering with a criminal investigation and threatening to bring the innocent nurse to jail. Wubbels then consulted with other hospital staff members and told the cops that she still refused to let the test go ahead.
Blood or Body?
That’s when Payne grabbed the nurse and pulled her hands behind her back, handcuffing her and telling her she is under arrest. During the ordeal, Wubbels can be heard yelling, “Help me” and “You’re assaulting me.” Det. Payne can also be heard telling the nurse “I either go away with blood vials or body in tow.”…
Nurse Wubbels can be heard screaming for help, saying Det. Payne is arresting her for doing nothing wrong as he dragged her out and threw her in the back of his squad car. The Salt Lake Tribune reported that a University of Utah cop and Department of Public Safety officers were present during the arrest but did not intervene or try to help.
Wubbels was then detained for about 20 minutes before being released and told she would not be charged with a crime. However, Payne clearly used excessive force when he unlawfully arrested her.
According to data on the the Salt Lake City Police Department’s website, there has been an increase in “use of force” with arresting officers. Since the end of 2016, complaints of use of force by officers in the Salt Lake City area have skyrocketed.
The video of the arrest was shown to the public on August 31, at a press conference held by Wubbels and her attorney. It quickly went viral. Many people around the country were outraged and voiced their opinions as to how the police officer treated the Salt Lake City nurse for doing her job correctly…
Hospital officials quickly spoke out on behalf of Wubbel in a press conference saying they were “deeply troubled” by the incident,” adding, “This will not happen again.” According to Salt Lake police, an internal investigation into the arrest would occur and Det. Payne was taken off of the department’s blood draw unit. A program that trains officers to become phlebotomists so they can obtain blood samples.
On the tapes, Payne could also be heard saying to another officer, “I wonder how this will affect my Gold Cross job,” referring to his second job as a paramedic. “I bring patients here,” he added. When the other officer replied, that he doesn’t think they’re going to be very happy about the incident, Payne says, “I’ll bring them all the transients and take good patients elsewhere.”
After the video went viral, Gold Cross, who has employed Payne as an ambulance driver for over 30 years. received an overwhelming number of angry phone calls threatening them about their employee. The company issued a statement that they take Payne’s remarks regarding patient transports seriously and have since terminated his employment with them. In early October, Salt Lake City Police Chief Mike Brown also made the decision to fire Detective Jeff Payne after an internal investigation found he violated department policies when he arrested nurse Alex Wubbels.
Since the incident occurred in July, the U.S. Supreme Court has ruled that police officers must have a warrant to draw blood in drunken-driving cases. Salt Lake City police chief Mike Brown said in a statement that the department would, “do what is necessary to fully investigate the issue, uphold the integrity of the Salt Lake City Police Department, and strengthen the trust with our community.”
According to reports from the Deseret News, Wubbels credited her Olympic experience with getting her the “toughness” to get through her arrest. “I’m not here to police the police,” she said in an interview on TODAY. “The police need to do that if they’re going to regain any kind of trust by me or, I think, the public.”