The patient a Utah nurse protected before her high-profile arrest dies
William Gray was unconscious that late July day when a Utah nurse was arrested trying to protect his rights by refusing to allow police to draw his blood. Gray, 43, a truck driver and part-time Idaho police reserve officer, died late Monday.
“He has been in a long hard fight,” said a Facebook message posted by his police department in Rigby, Idaho. “Tonight, his body lost this fight.”
Gray was injured in a vehicle crash as a driver swerved into his truck while fleeing from Utah State Patrol officers, the post said. Nearly half of Gray’s body was burned, said the Facebook post, which praised the “skillful care” he received at the University of Utah Hospital.
Alex Wubbels, a charge nurse at the hospital on July 26, was aggressively arrested by Salt Lake City Police Detective Jeff Payne, who demanded to draw blood from Gray. Wubbels refused because Payne did not have a warrant and Gray could not consent.
State and federal law, as well as hospital policy, require police to have a warrant or patient consent to collect blood samples.
Weeks later, after dramatic video of Wubbels’s arrest surfaced, Payne and his supervisor, Lt. James Tracy, were put on administrative leave and excoriated in two investigations into the matter. A criminal investigation is ongoing, the Associated Press reported.
The police department’s internal affairs division found that Payne’s treatment of the nurse — handcuffing her and shoving her into a police car — were “inappropriate, unreasonable, unwarranted” and “disrespectful,” as The Washington Post has reported. The report said Payne and Tracy violated ethics rules and police policies, disgracing the department, according to the Salt Lake Tribune.
The nurse was never charged with a crime. Instead, the Salt Lake City Mayor Jackie Biskupski and the city’s police chief apologized to her. The University of Utah Hospital also put in new restrictions barring law enforcement from patient care areas and direct contact with nurses, as The Washington Post has reported.
The officers’ union has been critical of the police department’s handling of the matter, saying Payne and Tracy were made pariahs, the AP reported. In a news conference Tuesday, Salt Lake Police Association president Stephen Hartney praised Payne’s years of work as an officer. After the hospital incident, Payne was fired from his part-time paramedic job at Gold Cross Ambulance.
At the time Payne sought the blood sample, Gray was not considered at fault in the vehicle crash, which killed the driver that swerved into him.
“Bill always had a funny story to bring about a laugh. He always did the good thing. This world would be better off with more Bill Grays, and this world is truly darker without his light,” said the Facebook post, which described Gray as a “man of selfless service.”
“We Love You Bill,” the post said. “Rest easy.”