(Reuters) - A nurse at a Utah hospital was assaulted by a police officer last month after declining to allow him to obtain a sample of an unconscious patient’s blood because he had neither a warrant nor the patient’s consent, media reported.
Prosecutors in Utah will consider criminal charges against the officer, an official said on Friday.
Video of the July 26 incident from Salt Lake City police officers’ body-worn cameras showed Alex Wubbels, dressed in blue medical scrubs, consulting with colleagues before showing the waiting officers a printout of the University of Utah Hospital’s policy on providing blood samples to test for alcohol or drugs.
The patient was a truck driver who was comatose when he was brought to the hospital burns unit after a crash with a vehicle being driven by someone fleeing police, the Deseret News reported.
Wubbels explained to the officers that under the policy, which she said was agreed to by the police department, she would need a warrant, the patient’s consent or the patient would need to be under arrest.
“I’m just trying to do what I’m supposed to do, that’s all,” Wubbels told the officers, noting that they did not meet any of those criteria.
One officer, identified in media reports as Detective Jeff Payne, appeared angered and grabbed at Wubbels before gripping her around her torso. “We’re done,” Payne said. “You’re under arrest.”
He then dragged Wubbels outside as she screamed.
“Somebody help me!” Wubbels cried as Payne pushed her against a wall and handcuffed her. “You’re assaulting me! Stop! I’ve done nothing wrong.”
Karra Porter, Wubbels’ lawyer, said at a news conference on Thursday where the video was shown that the nurse followed the law and the police were wrong, according to the Deseret News. Wubbels said her first duty was to her patients.
Salt Lake County District Attorney Sim Gill agreed with police that a criminal investigation of the officer is warranted, chief deputy district attorney Jeff Hall said in a telephone interview. He declined to say what charges may be filed.
Salt Lake City Police Chief Mike Brown said in a statement on Friday that he was “alarmed” by the video and that the department had apologized. Payne was suspended from blood-collecting duties while an internal investigation was being conducted, Brown said.
Payne was not immediately available for comment.
In a separate statement, Mayor Jackie Biskupski called the incident “completely unacceptable” and extended an apology to Wubbels for her ordeal.
A protest was planned for Saturday by Utah Against Police Brutality, according to a local Fox affiliate reporter, citing a statement from the group.
“Payne is clearly incapable of even basic moral reasoning, and he must be fired,” the statement posted on Twitter said.
The University of Utah said in a statement on Thursday that it supported Wubbels “and her decision to focus first and foremost on the care and well-being of her patient.”
The hospital said it had created a new policy with police that would preclude officers from arriving in person to seek blood samples.
Reporting by Jonathan Allen in New York; Editing by Daniel Wallis, Toni Reinhold and Cynthia Osterman
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