Utah Nurse Accosted By Police Settles Claims
Alex Wabbel, the Utah nurse who became famous in September after police body cam footage captured her being accosted by a police officer who was wrongfully demanding that she allow him to draw blood from a patient involved in an auto accident, has settled her claims with Salt Lake City and the hospital:
A Utah nurse who was forcefully detained by a police officer in July settled with the University of Utah and Salt Lake City on Tuesday for a total of $500,000.
The rough arrest of the nurse, who had refused the officer’s request to draw a sedated patient’s blood as part of a police investigation, was captured on body camera video and viewed widely online.
The tense incident led officials at the hospital — run by University of Utah Health — to bar police officers from patient-care areas; the police officer involved, Detective Jeff L. Payne, was eventually fired from his job with the police department and from a part-time job he held as a paramedic.
No charges were filed against the nurse, Alex Wubbels, who said at a news conference on Tuesday that she was “grateful” for the outcome of what she called an “emotional situation.”
“This landed in my lap; this is not something I sought out,” Ms. Wubbels said, noting that she returned to work about two weeks after the incident. “I’m incredibly humbled at the change that has already happened.”
A lawyer for Ms. Wubbels, Karra Porter, declined to explain why she and her client had agreed to settle for $500,000, specifically, or say whether they had sought more money.
“There will be no legal lawsuit,” Ms. Porter said at the news conference. “This part of this is over.”
A spokesman for the Salt Lake City mayor’s office did not reply to an email seeking comment late Wednesday. But the spokesman, Matthew Rojas, told The Deseret News that the city and the university had agreed to split the cost of the settlement and pay $250,000 each.
A spokeswoman for University of Utah Health, Suzanne Winchester, said in a brief telephone interview that she also believed the costs of the settlement had been split “50-50.”
“We continue to support Alex Wubbels who is an outstanding nurse and we commend her for putting her patient first,” she said in a statement. “This incident has prompted us to modify procedures and retrain staff regarding how law enforcement agencies interface with the university’s health care system. Our hope is that the implementation of these new procedures will ensure a situation like this doesn’t happen again.”
The patient involved, William Gray, died two months after the confrontation between the officer and the nurse. He had not been suspected of wrongdoing; a driver fleeing the police had crashed into Mr. Gray’s truck, severely injuring Mr. Gray and killing himself.
Wubbels said at the press conference on Tuesday that she would donate part of the settlement to a program that is being established to help fund more widespread availability of body cameras for police in Utah and around the country. Certainly, her case is yet another example of the value of body cameras in being able to provide definitive evidence in what otherwise would have been a he said/she said situation. Without it, the story likely wouldn’t have been anything other than a local story in Utah at best. On the other hand, it does tend to disprove the argument that body cameras would cause police officers to act differently. In this case, the officer’s outrageous behavior came even though he knew he was being recorded.