Utah nurse reaches $500,000 settlement in dispute over her arrest for blocking cop from drawing blood from patient

(Salt Lake City Police Department/Courtesy of Karra Porter) In this July 26, 2017, frame grab from video taken from a police body camera and provided by attorney Karra Porter, nurse Alex Wubbels is arrested by a Salt Lake City police officer at University Hospital in Salt Lake City. The Utah police department is making changes after the officer dragged Wubbels out of the hospital in handcuffs when she refused to allow blood to be drawn from an unconscious patient.

University Hospital nurse Alex Wubbels has agreed to a $500,000 payment to settle a dispute over her arrest by a Salt Lake City police officer after she barred him from drawing blood from an unconscious patient, her attorney said Tuesday.

Attorney Karra Porter said at a news conference that the agreement with Salt Lake City and the University of Utah covers all parties and takes the possibility of legal action off the table. “There will be no lawsuit,” she said.

The arrest drew widespread condemnation after Porter released police body camera and hospital security footage of the encounter on Aug. 31.

Wubbels will use a portion of the money to help people get body camera footage, at no cost, of incidents involving themselves, she said at the news conference. In addition, Porter’s law firm, Christensen & Jensen, will provide for free any legal services necessary to obtain the video.

“We all deserve to know the truth and the truth comes when you see the actual raw footage and that’s what happened in my case,” Wubbels said. “No matter how truthful I was in telling my story, it was nothing compared to what people saw and the visceral reaction people experienced when watching the footage of the experience that I went through.”

Wubbels said she also will make a donation to the Utah Nurses Association and will help spearhead the #EndNurseAbuse campaign by the American Nurses Association.

Porter said she hopes the discussion about the need for police body cameras continues and noted that the footage also protects law enforcement officers.

The July 26 encounter leading to Wubbels’ arrest began when she refused to allow Salt Lake City Detective Jeff Payne to draw blood from an unconscious patient who had been involved in a fiery crash in Cache County earlier in the day.

Wubbels pointed out that the crash victim was not under arrest, that Payne did not have a warrant to obtain the blood and that he could not obtain consent because the man was unconscious.

Payne insisted he had implied consent to get the blood and eventually arrested Wubbels. He handcuffed her and placed her in a police car outside the hospital, then released her after about 20 minutes. Charges were never filed against the nurse.

Wubbels is heard on footage of the incident asking a University police officer to protect her because Payne had threatened her with arrest. The U. officer informed the nurse that if she interfered with Payne’s investigation, she would be obstructing justice and he would not prevent the detective from arresting her.

The footage shows that as Payne moves to arrest Wubbels — grabbing and chasing her — she screams and backs into the U. police officer. The officer places a hand on Wubbels’ shoulder, apparently assisting Payne. (Other hospital employees appear to try and talk Payne down as the arrest is taking place.)

On Sept. 13, Salt Lake City Mayor Jackie Biskupski announced an internal affairs investigation had found Payne and Lt. James Tracy violated several department policies during their interaction with Wubbels. A review by the city’s independent Police Civilian Review Board also found the officers violated department policies.

The two reports also single out U. officers and security for not trying to defuse the situation.

Police Chief Mike Brown fired Payne on Oct. 10 and demoted Tracy to the rank of officer. Both men have appealed the punishment to the Salt Lake City Civil Service Commission.

Wubbels said Tuesday she hopes the disciplinary measures are upheld. “I will
be very disappointed if they aren’t,” she said.

The patient at the center of the controversy was 43-year-old William Gray, a full-time truck driver and a part-time reserve officer with the Rigby, Idaho, police department. He was severely burned on nearly half of his body in the July 26 crash and died Sept. 25.

A man in a pickup truck who was fleeing from the Utah Highway Patrol collided head-on with Gray’s semi on U.S. 89/91 near Sardine Canyon, according to Logan police, who investigated the crash. The pickup’s driver, Marcos Torres, 26, died at the scene.

After the crash, Logan police requested that Salt Lake City police obtain a blood sample from Gray.

Greg Skordas, Payne’s attorney, has said a federal regulation requires a blood sample when a driver with a commercial driver license (CDL) is involved in a fatal accident, and that by getting a CDL, a driver is assumed to have consented to a blood draw. Gray had a CDL and Payne wanted the sample so the injured man could keep that license, according to Skordas.

Porter has countered that the CDL regulation covers what an employer — not a law-enforcement officer — is supposed to do after an employee is in an accident. Another CDL regulation adopts states’ implied consent law but Utah’s statute specifically requires reasonable suspicion that a person was intoxicated before a sample can be taken, she said.

A criminal investigation into the arrest — which involves the Unified Police Department, the FBI and the Salt Lake County District Attorney’s Office — continues.