A Salt Lake City police officer has been charged for ordering his K9 dog to attack a black man who was unarmed. The officer is accused of commanding his K9, 'Tuco', to bite Jeffrey Ryans, even though the man was on his knees and had his hands in the air. Although the incident took place in April, it came to light only recently after one of the media outlets published the bodycam footage of the attack on Ryans.
Following that, an investigation was launched and the Salt Lake County District Attorney's Office filed the charge against Officer Nickolas Pearce, 39. Ryans during the attack suffered large wounds and required hospitalization for days.
Video of the April 24 incident, during which officers were responding to a domestic disturbance call, first surfaced in August. The video showed Pearce telling 36-year-old Ryans, "Get on the ground or you're gonna get bit."
"[Ryans] wasn't resisting arrest," Salt Lake County District Attorney Sim Gill said in explaining his decision, according to the Salt Lake Tribune, which first published the bodycam footage of the incident. The confrontation started when police were called to Ryans' home after his daughter called 911 to report that her father was screaming at and had hit her mother. Ryans was being arrested that night because his wife had filed a protective order last December against him that barred him from being at the home.
However, despite Ryans being on his knees and hands in the air during the arrest, Pearce commanded his K9 Tuco, to bite Ryans. In fact, when K9 Tuco got engaged and was biting Ryans, Pearce continually praised and encouraged the dog. "While he was being attacked by K9 Tuco, Ryans expressed extreme emotions reflective of pain from being bitten by K9 Tuco and pleaded with the officers to stop the biting. He questioned why he was being attacked when he was not resisting," the cause statement read.
Ryans Suffered Injuries
"Good boy, good boy," the officer was heard saying, as Ryans appeared to scream in pain, asking "Why are you guys doing this?". However, Pierce seemed to be enjoying the entire event and never resisted the dog. According to the probable cause statement, Pierce was aggressive from the beginning. Three seconds after Pearce ordered Ryans to get on the ground, he kicked Ryans in the leg, following which he fell down and got on his knees.
Ryans suffered large lacerations and required hospitalization for his injuries. After receiving treatment for his injuries, Ryans was booked into the Salt Lake County Metro Jail on a charge of violating the protective order filed by his wife. Pearce in his defense told the city's Civilian Review Board, who found the officer violated policy during the arrest that he ordered his K9 Tuco to bite Ryans because he thought the man was getting into an upright position to fight.
However, the board found that Ryans did not make any such attempts during the arrest and Pierce unnecessarily got aggressive. He now faces charges of aggravated assault. Ryans later said police often treat Black people differently, and it is no different in Utah.