‘Everybody was very shocked’: US police officer forcibly arrests nurse who prevented blood sample from unconscious patient

Salt Lake City police chief said he was alarmed by the footage and that an internal affairs investigation had been launched

PUBLISHED : Saturday, 02 September, 2017, 12:43pm
UPDATED : Saturday, 02 September, 2017, 9:47pm

Police in the US state of Utah have launched an investigation after video footage showed an officer forcibly arresting a nurse for refusing to draw blood from an unconscious patient.

The images captured by police body cameras and the University Hospital in Salt Lake City show Alex Wubbels screaming for help as she is manhandled out of the medical Centre and handcuffed.

The nurse was detained for about 20 minutes in a police car before being released after administrative staff intervened, according to Suzanne Winchester, a spokeswoman for hospital.

Winchester said blood samples from a patient could be handed over to the police only if the patient had given consent, was under arrest or there was a warrant.

None of these conditions was met, said Winchester, who added Wubbels had correctly followed protocol.

“This is very out of the ordinary. Everybody was very shocked – it was upsetting for our staff,” she added.

The incident unfolded on July 26, but the video was only made public on Thursday at a news conference held by Wubbels.

“Stop, stop – I’ve done nothing wrong ... This is crazy, please sir, you’re hurting me,” she is seen pleading as she is frogmarched to a police car.

This is very out of the ordinary. Everybody was very shocked – it was upsetting for our staff
Suzanne Winchester, hospital spokeswoman

Wubbels told journalists she felt betrayed and angry at her treatment when she was only trying to keep her patient safe.

“This cop bullied me. He bullied me to the utmost extreme,” Wubbels said on Friday. “And nobody stood in his way.”

She said she acted as any good nurse would, following her training and protocols to protect the rights of a patient who couldn’t speak for himself.

“You can’t just take blood if you don’t have a legitimate concern for something to be tested,” Wubbels said. “It is the most personal property I think that we can have besides our skin and bones and organs.”

In a subsequent statement, she said the city’s mayor and police chief had both extended personal apologies for her treatment.

“I have accepted those apologies,” she said. “The outpouring of support has been beyond what I could have imagined. Since the incident, the city has taken this matter seriously, and I believe that positive change will occur.”

Salt Lake City police chief Mike Brown said he was “alarmed” by the footage and that an internal affairs investigation had been launched.

“To date, we have suspended the officer from the blood draw programme. We have already replaced our blood draw policy with a new policy,” he added. “All remaining officers on the blood draw programme have reviewed, and are operating under, the new policy and protocol.”

District lawyer Sim Gill issued a statement on Facebook calling for a full criminal investigation, however.

“Injustice against one is an injustice against all. Everyone deserves a fair process and institutional accountability is our collective responsibility,” he said.

Additional reporting by Associated Press