SALT LAKE CITY — The officer at the center of controversy over his treatment of a Utah nurse was told not to worry about obtaining blood from an unconscious car crash victim in the hospital, but tried anyway, Logan Police Chief Gary Jensen told CNN Wednesday.
Salt Lake City Detective Jeff Payne’s tense July 26 encounter with Alex Wubbels, a charge nurse at the University of Utah Hospital burn unit, drew national attention after body cam footage of the incident spread online. Wubbels refused to let officers draw a blood sample from the patient, in keeping with hospital policy.
Jensen told CNN his department had initially ordered the sample from the man, who was involved in a crash near Logan, Utah in Cache County. But Logan police asked the Salt Lake City police for help and they dispatched Payne, a trained phlebotomist, to get the blood sample, Jensen said.
At the hospital, Payne relayed his difficulty in getting the blood sample to a Logan detective, who was not at the hospital, Jensen said. According to Jensen, the detective then informed Payne the Logan department could get the blood through other means.
“He didn’t tell him you must cease and desist, he simply said ‘don’t worry about it, we’ll go another way,'” Jensen told CNN. “I just don’t believe (Payne’s) actions were in the best interest of the patient, the nurses or law enforcement, quite frankly.
“He could have just packed up and gone home,” Jensen added.
Hospital policy specifies that in order to obtain a blood sample, police need a judge’s order or the patient’s consent, or the patient needs to be under arrest. The unconscious patient was not a suspect in the wreck that killed another driver.
Jensen said Logan police didn’t pursue a warrant because they didn’t initially realize the victim was unconscious. They had hoped to get the victim’s consent, Jensen said.
Detective terminated from paramedic job
The Salt Lake City Police Department has placed Payne and another officer on administrative leave, pending the results of an internal investigation. Payne was also fired on Tuesday from a separate job as a part-time paramedic.
Salt Lake City police spokesperson Detective Keith Horrocks declined to comment Wednesday, citing the pending investigation.
Horrocks said he didn’t know if Payne had an attorney. A phone number for Payne could not be located Wednesday. The Salt Lake Police Association did not respond to a request for comment.
In the widely-seen police body cam video, Payne expressed repeated frustration after Wubbels told him he would not be able to obtain a blood sample. Wubbels presented the officers with a printout of the hospital’s policy for drawing blood and said their request did not meet the criteria.
The university and Salt Lake City police had agreed to the policy more than year ago, but the officers “appeared to be unaware of it,” Wubbels’ attorney, Karra Porter, has said.
After Wubbels refuses Payne’s request, the bodycam video shows Payne quickly walk over to her. The nurse backs away as Payne says, “Oh, please. We’re done here. We’re done. We’re done.”
Wubbels shrieks as Payne forces her out the door toward a police car, screaming for him to stop.
“I’ve done nothing wrong! I’ve done nothing wrong! Why is this happening? This is crazy.”
Wubbels also asks why the officer is “so angry.”
Payne handcuffed Wubbels and placed her in the police car, where she sat for about 20 minutes, according to CNN affiliate KSL. She was later released without charge.
Salt Lake City’s mayor, city council and police later apologized to Wubbels for the arrest.
Chief: I ‘don’t condone’ officer’s actions
“I don’t know why he was frustrated,” Jensen said of Payne. “I don’t know why he acted the way he did.”
It’s “easy to be a Monday morning quarterback, but I can’t come up with a play that includes what happened,” he said.
But Jensen declined to characterize Payne as a rogue officer.
“I know Jeff personally. I don’t believe that’s true,” Jensen said. “But I don’t condone how he managed himself that day.”