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2 officers involved in U. nurse arrest retain counsel

(Salt Lake Police)

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SALT LAKE CITY — Salt Lake police detective Jeff Payne and Lt. James Tracy, the two officers placed on administrative leave following the release of body camera video of the arrest of University Hospital nurse Alex Wubbels, have both retained counsel.

Tracy has hired defense attorneys Ed Brass and Kim Cordova to represent him amid multiple investigations by the Salt Lake City Police Department, the Unified Police Department, the FBI and the Salt Lake County District Attorney's Office.

Payne has hired Greg Skordas and Rebecca Hyde Skordas to represent him. Payne's attorneys declined to comment on Friday.

As Brass begins the process of collecting information, he asked that the public be respectful of his client and his family.

"Lt. Tracy has served the Salt Lake City community well and honorably for nearly 30 years. The district attorney urged, 'We ask the community and our citizens to be patient. … We assure them that this issue is of the utmost concern for us and we are committed to assuring a thorough, fair gathering and review of evidence, facts and issues.' We would ask that the same respect and patience be extended to Lt. Tracy," Brass said.

He noted that Tracy has received so many threats since the video was released last week that he was forced to disable all of his social media pages. Tracy's adult son has even been threatened directly by someone who thought he was his father, Brass said.

"Threats to him and his family via social media are counterproductive and illegal. Judgment should await the thorough, fair gathering and review of evidence that all of the community, including Lt. Tracy, have been promised," he said.

Tracy was the watch commander or supervisor on duty July 26 when Salt Lake police received a request from the Logan Police Department to draw blood from a patient who was flown by medical helicopter from Cache County to University Hospital's burn unit following a crash that involved a fatality.

Payne was sent to the hospital to collect the blood. But Wubbels — citing policy agreed upon by the hospital and the police department, as well as instructions from nearly a dozen superiors including the hospital's chief operating officer — declined to tell Payne where the patient was or allow him to draw blood.

After about 90 minutes of negotiating, according to a police report, an impatient Payne is seen in the video telling Wubbels, the charge nurse, that she is under arrest for interfering with a police investigation. Video of Wubbels screaming as Payne lunges for her, grabs her, pushes her outside the hospital doors and against a wall as he handcuffs her and places her in a patrol car, sparked immediate outrage across the country.

Payne says in the video that he was following orders from Tracy. After the nurse was handcuffed, Tracy arrived at the hospital. Several hospital staffers attempted to talk to him either directly or hand him a cellphone with one of the hospital's top brass on the line.


"I don’t need you to make a phone call to tell me what authority I have because I know what authority I have," the lieutenant is heard saying during one call.

Later in the video, Tracy tells Payne that Wubbels' arrest won't stick and that they will let her go, but allow her to believe the case may be reviewed with prosecutors for criminal charges.

"We have found a workaround so that we don’t have to try to get through the huge amounts of roadblocks your organization has put in front of us, to get what is lawfully ours to have,” he tells the hospital COO on the phone.

Salt Lake Police Chief Mike Brown said Payne was taken off the blood draw program and an internal investigation was launched within 24 hours of the incident in July. Yet it wasn't until the video was publicly released that both officers were placed on leave.

Payne was later fired from his part-time job as a paramedic with Gold Cross Ambulance, which also received numerous threats from across the country after the video was released. In body camera video, Payne is heard telling Tracy that he will transport only transients to University Hospital and take the "good" patients to other hospitals.

On Thursday, District Attorney Sim Gill announced that he has asked the FBI to look into whether Wubbels' civil rights were violated during the incident.


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Pat Reavy


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