Behold, Salt Lake City Police Det. Jeff Payne arresting Nurse Alex Wubbels in July for refusing to violate an unconscious—comatose, actually—man’s rights by drawing his blood for the police without any sort of warrant whatsoever:
What Payne did here is patently, inescapably wrong in just about every possible way. Just one year ago the Supreme Court ruled that police must get a warrant or consent in order to draw a person’s blood. It’s utterly inconceivable that Payne, who is a trained phlebotomist with the police, did not know this. According to coverage from the Salt Lake Tribune, Payne acknowledged that he didn’t have probable cause to get a warrant, but nevertheless insisted he had the authority to demand Wubbels draw blood.
But Payne did not have the authority to demand the blood draw and Wubbels was not “interfering” with a police investigation as they insisted at the time. Unsurprisingly, she was released later at the hospital and was not charged with any crime.
In fact, the claim that this blood draw was part of an “investigation” at all adds another layer of revulsion to Payne’s behavior. The unconscious man Payne wanted blood from was not suspected of any crime and had done nothing wrong. He was, in fact, a victim of a crime.
The patient, William Gray of Idaho, was driving a semi truck in Northern Utah when he was struck head-on by a man who veered into oncoming traffic on a highway in Wellsville on July 27. That driver, who died in the crash, was fleeing from the police in a high-speed chase. Utah Highway Patrol officers were responding to calls about an erratic driver, and the man, Marco Torres, 26, led police on a chase rather than get pulled over and detained.
So Gray’s terrible injuries were a consequence of a police chase that he had absolutely nothing to do with. He was in the wrong place at the wrong time. According to the coverage of the arrest, Payne said that he wanted to draw blood from Gray to check for drugs in order to “protect” him in some fashion, not to punish him, and that he was ordered to go collect his blood by police in Logan. It is not made clear in any coverage what exactly the police would protecting him from by drawing his blood without his consent while he was unconscious. Payne also said it was his watch commander, Lt. James Tracy, who told him to arrest Wubbels if she refused to draw blood.
Payne has been suspended from the police’s blood draw program but remains on duty. He needs to be shown the door. It doesn’t matter if he was just following orders, he should have known he didn’t have the authority. For that matter, Wubbels herself was just following orders. She served the hospital, which had strict guidelines for drawing blood that the police were attempting to bully her into ignoring.
Tracy needs to be shown the door, too. We don’t see Tracy in the video acting the way Payne did, but it’s very clear from the Tribune‘s coverage that the lieutenant did also insist that he had the authority to force Wubbels to draw blood, even though he most assuredly did not.
In fact, here’s a longer video from Deseret News that shows toward the end what appears to be Tracy being a condescending jerk to Wubbels while she’s being detained, even though he’s completely in the wrong:
SATURDAY MORNING UPDATE: The Salt Lake County District Attorney’s Office has launched an independent criminal investigation of the incident. The mayor and police chief have apologized to Wubbels for her treatment. Payne and an unnamed officer have been placed on administrative leave during the investigation.