Prosecutors have asked the FBI to assist in an investigation into the rough arrest of a Utah nurse after video of her being dragged screaming from a hospital drew widespread condemnation.  Salt Lake County District Attorney Sim Gill is overseeing a criminal investigation into officers involved in the handcuffing of nurse Alex Wubbels. He is asking for FBI help in part because his office can’t prosecute possible civil rights violations like wrongful arrest.

The incident happened on July 26 but bodycam footage that was released last week sparked national outcry.  That night, a man named William Gray was taken to the hospital after suffering severe injuries from a car crash.  Gray, a reserve police officer with the police department in Rigby, Idaho-who works as a truck driver, had been injured after being in the fiery head on car crash with a truck that was fleeing from Utah State Highway Patrol.

In the video, Salt Lake City Detective Jeff Payne is seen squaring off against Utah nurse Alex Wubbels, the charge nurse working the night shift on the burn unit at Utah University Hospital.   Wubbels was following hospital protocol and the law when she calmly refused to allow a blood draw on an unconscious patient without consent or a warrant.   She presented the officers with a printout of hospital policy on drawing blood and said their request did not meet the criteria.

Hospital policy specified police needed either a judge’s order or the patient’s consent, or the patient needed to be under arrest, before obtaining a blood sample.  “I’m just trying to do what I’m supposed to do. That’s all,” Wubbels tells the officers, according to the body camera video.  She put her supervisor on speakerphone who told Payne “You’re making a huge mistake because you’re threatening a nurse.” “No, we’re done,” Payne said. “We’re done. You’re under arrest.”

Salt Lake City police detective Jeff Payne insisted on drawing the blood, maintaining in his report that he wanted the sample to protect the man rather than prosecute him. He was supported by his supervisor, Lt. James Tracy, who said the nurse could be arrested if she didn’t agree.  The dispute ended with Payne handcuffing Wubbels and dragging her outside while she screamed that she’d done nothing wrong. She was detained for 20 minutes and later released without charge.

Payne, who has worked for the department for over 20 years, and a second unidentified officer were put on full paid administrative leave by Salt Lake City police after the video emerged.  Lt. James Tracy’s actions are also under review.  Payne has also been fired from his part-time job as a paramedic following comments he made on the video about taking transient patients to the hospital as retaliation.

The Rigby Police Department said they hope the incident will be investigated thoroughly and “appropriate action” will be taken.  “The Rigby Police Department would like to thank the nurse involved and hospital staff for standing firm and protecting Officer Gray’s rights as a patient and victim,” “Protecting the rights of others is truly a heroic act.”  “It is important to remember that Officer Gray is the victim in this horrible event, and that at no time was he under any suspicion of wrongdoing,” the statement said, adding that Gray “continues to heal.”

A GoFundMe page has been set up to help William Gray and his wife with expenses while he recovers at the University of Utah Hospital in Salt Lake City.  https://www.gofundme.com/BillGray

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