SLC cop who threatened to ‘take good patients elsewhere’ before arresting Utah nurse gets fired from his paramedic job

Salt Lake City police Detective Jeff Payne has been fired from his part-time paramedic job as the fallout continues from his arrest of a University Hospital nurse in July.

Payne’s actions ”violated several company policies and left a poor image of the company,” Gold Cross President Mike Moffitt said in a Tuesday interview. ”We determined today it was best to part ways.”

Payne arrested nurse Alex Wubbels on July 26 when she refused to allow Payne to draw a patient’s blood. The encounter garnered national attention last week when Wubbels and her attorney released police body camera footage of the arrest and conversations between officers and with hospital officials before and after the encounter.   

At one point, Payne remarks to another officer — apparently frustrated by Wubbels’ refusal to allow a blood draw — that he could retaliate against the hospital in his role as a Gold Cross paramedic. “I‘ll bring them all the transients and take good patients elsewhere,” Payne says in the footage.

Payne also wonders aloud on the video how the incident may affect his paramedic job.

Gold Cross began an internal investigation into Payne’s remarks Friday, after the video was released, but Payne was initially allowed to stay on the job, Moffitt said.

He declined to describe in detail what the investigation found or how company officials determined that they should terminate Payne’s employment, citing a policy not to discuss separations. But Moffitt said he had directed his dispatchers to examine Payne’s records of ambulance transports since July 26, and they found nothing inappropriate.

“Although Jeff was not working for Gold Cross Ambulance at the time of the incident, we take his inappropriate remarks regarding patient transports seriously,” according to a Tuesday company statement about the termination. 

Meanwhile, Payne has been placed on administrative leave by the Salt Lake Police Department, pending an internal investigation and another probe by the city’s civilian review board. Also, Salt Lake County’s Unified Police Department has opened a criminal investigation at the request of Salt Lake County District Attorney Sim Gill.

Payne was hired at Gold Cross as a full-time emergency medical technician in 1983, later becoming a paramedic, Moffitt said. He eventually became a police officer and continued on with the paramedic job part time.

Moffitt said he worked alongside Payne in the 1980s, sometimes in the same ambulance.

“I know him as well as any co-worker you spend 30 years with,” Moffitt said.

He called Payne’s behavior in the body camera footage ”uncharacteristic” of his former colleague. ”I’ve never seen anything like that from him, nor had any reason to believe that was something that was possible,” Moffitt said.

As news got out Friday that Payne worked for Gold Cross, people upset by Wubbels’ arrest called to complain and demand his termination, Moffitt said. He said he and other managers fielded many of the calls themselves, to keep the pressure off the ambulance dispatch staff.

Then, on Saturday, some of the callers were agitated and threatening, Moffitt said, prompting the company to report several to police and place its operations center on lockdown through the weekend. EMTs and paramedics were asked to be wary; about 25 to 35 crews are usually on the road in the Salt Lake Valley, he said. 

“Everybody was on a heightened awareness,” Moffitt said.

In its statement, the company acknowledged the ”concerned individuals who have contacted us regarding this incident and affirm our commitment to serving all members of the community with kindness and respect.”

The Salt Lake City Council issued a statement at Tuesday’s formal meeting. Chairman Stan Penfold said that “all seven council members” shared the public’s concern about the incident.

“We stand united in our believe that it is unacceptable,” he said. “It was especially frustrating in light of all the progress the police department has made recently on [de-escalation] training. This is a big step back on those efforts, which is disappointing.”

— Reporter Matthew Piper contributed to this story.