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Utah Nurse Arrested for Refusing to Give Patient's Blood to Police

The escalating encounter — in which nurse Alex Wubbels pleaded, "Stop! I've done nothing wrong!" — has prompted an independent investigation.
Image: Nurse Alex Wubbles
Bodycam footage shows nurse Alex Wubbles arrested for refusing to take blood samples at a Salt Lake City HospitalSalt Lake City Police

The Utah nurse whose arrest for refusing to draw blood from an unconscious patient drew nationwide criticism said Friday that what hurt most wasn't being manhandled by a detective — it was that none of the other officers watching the struggle tried to intervene.

"I was being bullied and nobody was willing to speak up for me," Alex Wubbels told NBC News. "That is one of the main points of this whole issue."

Wubbels, a University of Utah Hospital nurse and a former Olympic athlete, said Salt Lake City Mayor Jackie Biskupski "did reach out to me with a personal apology. I accepted that apology."

Biskupski also tweeted an apology on her behalf and that of the police chief.

But neither Detective Jeff Payne, the officer who arrested her, nor his supervisor have apologized for what Wubbels called the "disgrace they put upon themselves."

She was not charged with a crime. Asked whether she believes Payne should be disciplined, the nurse said "that's not for me to make that choice."

"I do think a lot of police act appropriately and are out there to help us," she said.

The city announced Friday that the Unified Police Department is conducting an independent investigation into whether any criminal acts occurred. Payne has been placed on paid administrative leave, officials said. The city's mayor called the incident "unacceptable."

"This is an ever evolving situation, and we will 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," Salt Lake City Police Chief Mike Brown said in a statement.

Payne has not responded to requests for comment.

A police spokesperson said they were alarmed by what happened and that the department is working closely with the hospital to ensure this never happens again.

The unfortunate encounter happened on July 26.

Related: SCOTUS Skeptical of Criminal Penalty for Refusing Drunk Driving Test

The 19 minutes of police bodycam footage made public showed Payne insisting that Wubbels draw the blood. He appears to grow increasingly impatient as the nurse cites hospital protocol as her reason for refusing his order.

While other officers watched, Wubbels explained to Payne that, if he wanted the blood, he needed either an electronic warrant, patient consent, or declare an intent to arrest the patient.

But Payne, the nurse said, wasn't having it.

"He was on a mission," Wubbels said of Payne. "I just knew that I was in the right."

In the videos, which may have been edited, Wubbels held her ground about drawing blood. Payne then suddenly snapped.

"No, we're done," he said. "You're under arrest, we're going!"

He was then seen yanking her arms behind her and cuffing her wrists before hauling her to the back of the patrol car.

"Please sir, you're hurting me," Wubbels said.

"Then walk," Payne responded.

Wubbels, from inside the car, screamed for help and that "I did nothing wrong!" She was later let go.

On Thursday, an emotional Wubbels said law enforcement needs better training about when they can draw blood from patients for investigations. "At the very least, there needs to be some significant discussion about what their duties are to society," she said.

Wubbels, a nurse at the hospital since 2009 who competed as an Alpine skier at the 1998 and 2002 Winter Olympics, said feels betrayed and angry.

"And I am still confused," said Wubbels as she wiped away tears. "I'm a health care worker. The only job I have is to keep my patients safe."

What happened, she said, "was not peaceful. This was not even civil."

The incident was condemned as "outrageous" by National Nurses United, the country's largest nursing union.

"As the videos and news accounts make clear, there is no excuse for this assault, or her arrest, which sends a chilling message about the safety of nurses and the rights of patients," said Jean Ross, the group's co-president.

The patient at the center of the drama was a truck driver who was injured when his vehicle collided with that of another driver who was fleeing police, reported NBC affiliate KSL-TV.

The truck driver was badly burned and comatose and police were seeking his blood to determine whether he had illicit substances in his system at the time of the crash, according to a written report obtained by The Salt Lake Tribune.

His name has not been released.