A news story about a police officer (in Salt Lake City!) manhandling an ER nurse for RESISTING HIS AUTHORITAY!!! seemed almost too on-the-nose as an analogy for life during the Trump Occupancy. But there are real people at the heart of this metaphor, and the Washington Post followed up:
… William Gray, a commercial truck driver and reserve police officer, died late Monday of the injuries he suffered when a fiery July 26 crash left him with burns over nearly half his body, University of Utah Health spokeswoman Suzanne Winchester said.
Gray was unconscious at the Salt Lake City hospital when police detective Jeff Payne asked to draw his blood hours after the crash.
Nurse Alex Wubbels refused because hospital policy required a warrant or patient consent. Payne handcuffed her and dragged her outside.
Gray was hauling a load of sand in northern Utah when a pickup truck speeding away from police crossed the center line and hit his truck head-on, causing an explosion. State police had been trying to pull over the pickup driver after several people called 911 to report he was driving recklessly.
Gray was not suspected of wrongdoing.
The pickup driver, Marcos Torres, 26, died in the crash, and Utah police routinely collect such evidence from everyone involved in fatal crashes.
Dramatic video of Wubbels’ arrest caught widespread attention online amid national scrutiny of police use of force. Payne and the supervisor who backed him, Lt. James Tracy, were placed on leave amid internal and criminal investigations…
Gray, 43, served with police in the southeastern Idaho city of Rigby. Chief Sam Tower said he was dedicated to the community of about 4,000 people and plowed snow from a sidewalk last winter so neighborhood kids wouldn’t have to walk in the street.
“Bill was truly the best of mankind,” Rigby police said in a Facebook post. “Always willing to help, always willing to go the extra mile. Bill was a big man, with a bigger heart. Everything about him was generous and kind.”…
Amy Davidson Sorkin, in the New Yorker, explains “What the Utah Good-Nurse, Bad-Cop Video Says About Medical Privacy”:
… The story began on July 26th. That day, the police had engaged in a high-speed chase on a highway that ended with a deadly multi-vehicle crash. But this was not a cinematic case of, say, fugitive armed robbers. It began around 2 P.M., when the police received reports of a Chevrolet Silverado driving erratically. As the officers began their pursuit, the Silverado, now on US-89/91, swerved into a semi truck that happened to be on the road, causing an explosion. The driver of the Silverado, Marco Torres, who was twenty-six, was killed instantly. The truck driver, William Gray—who, in one of this story’s many byways, was a reserve police officer in Rigby, Idaho—staggered out of his semi, his clothes and body on fire. He was airlifted to the burn unit. One might wonder why the police wanted his blood, when he was, essentially, a bystander. The Utah police have said that it was meant for Gray’s protection, but Payne, in his report on the incident, obtained by the Salt Lake Tribune, said that the officers who were dealing with the crash wanted to know whether Gray had any “chemical substances” in his system. Another, troubling possibility could be that they were looking for something that might place some of the responsibility for the crash on Gray, in case he complained that the police had been reckless in their pursuit.
One way or the other, Payne wanted Gray’s blood. (He had been trained as a police phlebotomist.) “I either go away with blood in vials or body in tow,” Payne told Wubbels. Blood does not only indicate whether someone has had a few drinks, smoked marijuana, or used some other drug; it contains an extraordinary amount of information about a person, from genetics to medical conditions that have no effect on driving. The potential level of exposure in a blood test will only increase with future technological developments. That is why the hospital has its rules; that is why patient-privacy laws reflect those restrictions; that is why the Constitution, as the Supreme Court ruled as recently as last year, also forbids what Payne was insisting that Wubbels do. When she asked him, not for the first time, if he had a warrant, he said, “Nope,” in a tone suggesting that it was an irrelevant question. And yet the principles that underlie warrants—freedom from search and seizure, privacy—are the heart of this matter. “She’s the one that has told me no,” Payne said, when a supervisor on speakerphone asked why he was threatening to arrest Wubbels. Payne was not alone with Wubbels, as she shouted, “Help! Help! Somebody help me! Stop! Stop! I did nothing wrong!” Other police officers were at the hospital—three or four of them come and go in the video—and so were members of the University of Utah police, who stand there looking more or less dazed. Some seem to urge Payne to be more gentle, but no one stops him from hurting Wubbels. Paramedics make far more of an effort—one puts a hand on Wubbels’s shoulder until police wave him off, and they ask for the officer’s name and badge number as they call hospital officials for help…
Payne’s defense is that his lieutenant, James Tracy, whom he spoke to by phone, had urged him to arrest her. Tracy eventually arrives at the scene in the extended video, and appears to confirm that Payne acted on his instructions. Tracy also further berates Wubbels as she sits, handcuffed, in the police car. He tells her that, while she may be citing hospital rules, he has “the law” on his side, a formulation he repeats to one of the paramedics who approaches the car, saying, “There’s a very bad habit here of your policy interfering with my law.” When Wubbels says that she has an obligation “to my patient,” Tracy says that, if it turns out that the request from the police is in violation of the law, there are “civil remedies” that could come into play later: “If we took his blood illegally, it all goes away.” The implication is that it’s acceptable to violate a person’s rights and then wait and see if someone sues…