A nurse in Utah is being called a “hero” after she protected a patient from a blood draw that wasn’t in compliance with hospital policy. Now, the identity of the man she protected has been revealed.
The nurse, Alex Wubbels, is the center point of a viral video and heated debate over patients’ rights and law enforcement techniques. The former Olympian-turned-nurse works at the University of Utah Hospital. On July 26, a police phlebotomist wanted to take a blood sample from a male patient that had been a driver involved in an earlier truck crash.
Although the man wasn’t the cause of the accident, as part of their investigation, police wanted a blood sample to determine whether he had illicit substances in his system at the time of the crash.
Wubbels calmly informed officers who were there to collect the sample that, according to hospital policy, they needed patient consent to draw the blood. Without the ability to obtain consent, they would need to present an electronic warrant or place her patient under arrest to gain access to his blood.
That patient has now been identified as William Gray, an Idaho resident claimed by the Rigby Police Department (RPD) to be one of its reserve officers. On Friday, RPD thanked the “heroic” nurse who prevented Gray’s blood draw.
At the time of the request, Gray had been unconscious and badly burned. In a press release posted on Facebook, RPD said Gray was “severely injured” in a car accident that occurred while he was engaged in his full-time truck-driving job.
“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,” the department said.
The controversy over police officers’ conduct stems from the fact that after Wubbels informed officers about the options available to obtain Officer Gray’s blood, she was arrested and dragged from the hospital, then placed in a police cruiser by Salt Lake City Police Detective Jeff Payne
Video of the incident has circulated social media.
According to WATE News, Payne had been in communication with his supervisor over what to do before he arrested Wubbels. They discussed the time-sensitive blood draw for over an hour with hospital staff, police spokeswoman Christina Judd said.
“Payne wrote in a police report that he grabbed Wubbels and took her outside to avoid causing a ‘scene’ in the emergency room. He said his boss, a lieutenant whose actions also were being reviewed, told him to arrest Wubbels if she kept interfering,” WATE reports.
In response to the incident, Payne and another officer were placed on paid leave, while the department conducts an investigation.
Judd said that, as of last week, the department has updated its blood-draw policy to mirror the hospital’s policy, and that officers have already received additional training.
Salt Lake City’s mayor and police chief both apologized for Wubbels’ treatment. Wubbels says she was assaulted and unlawfully detained.
Following news of the July incident, protesters in Salt Lake City reportedly assembled on Saturday to demonstrate against police conduct, The Deseret News reported.
The full text of the RPD’s release may be read below:
Press Release 2017-05
September 1, 2017
To all outlets
On July 26th of this year, one of our reserve officers, William Gray was the victim in a horrific accident in northern Utah while working his full-time job as a truck driver. The suspect in this incident was fleeing from Utah State Highway Patrol, when he crossed into oncoming traffic and collided head on with Gray’s truck, severely injuring Gray, and killing himself. Officer Gray was flown to the University of Utah’s burn unit where he remains under their watchful, professional, and competent care.
Within the first hours of Officer Gray being admitted into the burn unit, an incident occurred between hospital staff and an officer from an agency in Utah who was assisting with the investigation. The Rigby Police Department was not aware of this incident until August 31st, 2017. 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.
The Rigby Police Department would also like to acknowledge the hard work of the involved agencies, and trusts that this unfortunate incident will be investigated thoroughly, and appropriate action will be taken.
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. As he continues to heal, we would ask that his family be given privacy, respect, and prayers for continued recovery and peace.
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