According to documents obtained by the Deseret News and The Salt Lake Tribune, Salt Lake City Police Department (SLCPD) Detective Jeff Payne has been fired by Chief Mike Brown after internal investigations into Payne’s arrest of a University of Utah Health nurse found that he had violated departmental policies.
In the new documents, Brown wrote to Payne, “I have lost faith and confidence in your ability to continue to serve as a member of the Salt Lake City Police Department.”
Those documents also show that Payne’s superior, Lt. James Tracy, was demoted two ranks to that of a police officer. Internal investigations into his actions after he instructed Payne to arrest nurse Alex Wubbels found that he also violated departmental policies.
Of Tracy, Brown wrote that he was the “catalyst that led to the arrest.”
On July 26, Rigby, Idaho reserve police officer and semi-truck driver William Gray was involved in an accident with a car fleeing police in a chase near Logan. The suspect collided with Gray’s semi head on, causing fire and an explosion. The individual being chased, 26-year-old Marco Torres of Brigham City, died in the crash. Gray survived after exiting the vehicle in flames. He was extinguished by troopers on the scene and eventually transported to the burn unit at the U’s hospital.
That same day Logan City Police Department requested help from SLCPD in obtaining a blood sample from Gray, as they said is the protocol for anyone involved in a fatal crash. Payne was on blood draw duty. After arriving at the hospital and requesting the sample from Wubbels, according to police documents, he waited for quite some time as Wubbels worked on patients in the burn unit as the head nurse. After caring for her patients, Wubbels went to speak with Payne. She called hospital administrators who concluded that, per an agreement between the police department and the hospital, the situation did not meet conditions under which Payne could be given a blood sample. When Wubbels communicated this to Payne, he arrested her and removed her from the hospital as she screamed.
Wubbels was later released and never charged with a crime.
Gray died in the hospital as a result of his injuries.
After the incident, Wubbels obtained body camera footage from the police officers under a Utah records law. She and her lawyer, Kerra Porter, released the footage to the public at the end of August. Payne and Tracy were placed on leave pending multiple investigations — internal police investigations, Citizen Review Board investigations and a criminal investigation handled by Salt Lake County District Attorney Sim Gill, Unified Police and the FBI. The criminal investigation is into possible civil rights violations, among others.
Gill said the criminal investigation has not yet concluded, and no charges have been filed against any officer involved.
Greg Skordas, Payne’s lawyer, has said Payne will likely appeal Brown’s decision.
This story will be updated as more information becomes available.