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Utah cop who assaulted nurse for refusing illegal order finally learns his fate

Salt Lake City Detective Jeff Payne learned Tuesday that he was fired after he aggressively arrested a nurse in late July for not complying with an illegal blood-draw request. (Image source: YouTube screenshot)

The Utah police officer, who aggressively arrested a nurse for refusing to break the law in July, has been fired from his job.

What happened?

Salt Lake City Detective Jeff Payne was fired Tuesday, more than a month after he ignited national controversy when video of his aggressive arrest went viral. According to the Salt Lake City Tribune, Payne’s watch commander, Lt. James Tracy, was also demoted to officer because of the incident.

Salt Lake City Police Chief Mike Brown informed the men of his decision on Tuesday. It came after a monthslong internal affairs investigation. Ultimately, Brown concluded that both officers broke multiple department policies.

Brown wrote to Payne: "In examining your conduct, I am deeply troubled by your lack of sound professional judgment and your discourteous, disrespectful, and unwarranted behavior, which unnecessarily escalated a situation that could and should have been resolved in a manner far different from the course of action you chose to pursue."

He similarly told Tracy that his judgment was “unacceptable” and unworthy of a leadership role in the department.

How did Payne respond?

Payne’s attorney, Greg Skordas, told the Tribune that his client is “devastated” by Brown’s decision and plans to appeal it. He gets five days to do so. Skordas also said he believes Brown’s decision was partially driven by public opinion. He said:

I‘m really frustrated by the way this case has been processed. I do think that Salt Lake City did a fair job of doing the investigation, and I think that their findings are, by and large, accurate. But I think the chief reacted to a lot of public pressure and scrutiny in making a decision that doesn’t fit the conduct.

How did the nurse and her attorney respond?

Nurse Alex Wubbels told the Tribune that she's just glad the encounter was captured on bodycam footage and emphasized the need for police bodycams throughout Utah because they aid in officer accountability.

She said: "I will say that the level of scrutiny that this case received would not have been the case had there been no bodycam footage. It would have been a he-said, she-said or multiple he-saids against a she-said. I do not think the truth would have been told without the bodycam footage."

Karra Porter, Wubbels' attorney, praised Brown's decision as the "obvious conclusion with Detective Payne." She told the Tribune she has yet to make a determination about Brown's decision against Tracy.

Porter told the Tribune she plans to meet with city officials next to discuss potential financial settlements. She also plans to meet with officials with the University of Utah's security division since they "facilitated this unlawful arrest and did nothing to protect Alex."

Video of Payne's arrest showed university police standing by idly as Payne manhandled Wubbels outside and into handcuffs.

Does Wubbels plan to sue?

Wubbels said last month that she and her attorney would only take legal action should the city not appropriately respond to the incident. They questioned why the police department took action against Payne only after the bodycam footage was released to the public.

Porter said she and her client would make a decision about potential legal action by the end of the month.

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