Former Utah Police Detective Jeff Payne was fired Tuesday after forcefully arresting a nurse who, in accordance with federal law, refused to give him a blood sample from an unconscious patient.
Payne became the poster child for police brutality last month when video surfaced of the former detective unlawfully pinning and handcuffing a burn nurse against a brick wall.
Alex Wubbels, the University of Utah Hospital nurse in question, was treated like a violent criminal when she refused to comply with Payne’s request for a blood sample, citing hospital policy and constitutional law.
“He was aggressive from the beginning,” she said of Payne. “This cop bullied me. He bullied me to the utmost extreme.”
Payne was attempting to collect blood from William Gray, an off-duty Idaho reserve officer who suffered severe burns after being struck by a pickup driver fleeing from police late July.
After Wubbels read aloud a written copy of hospital policy, which requires either a warrant or patient consent for a sample to be drawn, Payne remained confrontational. She called her supervisor, who reiterated the same policy.
“Sir, you’re making a huge mistake right now,” Wubbels’ supervisor told Payne. “You’re making a huge mistake because you’re threatening a nurse.”
At that point, Payne lost his temper and decided excessive force was the best option.
“Okay, no — we’re done, we’re done — you’re under arrest,” Payne said as he grabbed Wubbels’ arms, dragging her out of the hospital as she screamed and cried in confusion.
“Please sir, you’re hurting me,” she said as Payne dragged her to the car.
“Then walk,” he snapped back.
Payne’s partner unsuccessfully tried to calm him down, according to reports. Though Payne said his supervisor Lieutenant (now “officer”) James Tracy authorized the arrest, body cam footage suggests the other officers present disagreed with Payne’s unlawful approach.
“I don’t think this arrest is going to stick,” one officer said in the immediate aftermath.
Wubbels, a two-time Winter Olympian, sat handcuffed in the back of a police car for 20 minutes before she was released without charges.
“I was scared to death,” Wubbels later told CNN New Day anchor Alisyn Camerota. “[But] I stood my ground. I stood for what was right, which was to protect the patient.”
Following the video’s release, Payne and Tracy were placed on administrative leave pending a criminal investigation.
What’s Happening Now:
In a scathing letter coinciding with Payne’s termination, Salt Lake City Police Chief Mike Brown said the disgraced former detective’s actions severely tarnished public trust in law enforcement.
“I am deeply troubled by your lack of sound, professional judgment and your discourteous, disrespectful and unwarranted behavior, which unnecessarily escalated a situation that could and should have been resolved in a manner far different from the course of action you chose to pursue,” Brown wrote. “I have lost faith and confidence in your ability to continue to serve as a member of the Salt Lake City Police Department.”
Payne was also terminated from his part-time job as an ambulance driver for Gold Cross Ambulance last month after suggesting he’d “bring [the University of Utah Hospital] all the transients and take good patients elsewhere” to enact revenge on Wubbels.
“Those remarks are just not reflective of our company’s philosophy,” Gold Cross President Mike Moffitt told Reuters, saying Payne’s comments “reflected poorly on the company and violated several company policies.”
Former Lieutenant James Tracy, who ordered the arrest but was not on-scene, was demoted two ranks effective October 11.
Payne was never a model law enforcement official. In 2013, he was disciplined after internal affairs investigators determined he’d sexually harassed a female coworker in a “persistent and severe” manner.
But after losing two jobs and facing nationwide disgrace, has Payne learned his lesson?
Wubbels graciously chose not to press charges, but Payne’s attorney Greg Skordas says his client plans to appeal the firing.
According to The Independent:
Mr Skordas claimed Mr Payne would still be employed if the body camera footage had not generated so much attention and blown the events out of proportion.
Wait — so the argument is that Payne wouldn’t have been fired for gross misconduct if his actions had been kept secret? Is he serious?
Watch the horrifying body cam footage for yourself — then decide whether you think the events were blown out of proportion.
(Hint: they weren’t.)