Utah officer charged for allegedly ordering dog to attack Black man

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Salt Lake County District Attorney Sim Gill filed charges of second-degree felony aggravated assault after a Salt Lake City police officer used “unlawful force” on a Black man via his police dog. 

Jeffery Ryans, 36, was already compliant, on his knees with his hands in the air, when Officer Nickolas Pearce ordered his police K-9 to bite the man. The incident occurred on April 24 at Ryans’ home after his daughter called police during an argument with her mother. 

Bodycam footage showed the officer saying “good boy” to the police K-9 as an already-complying Jeffrey Ryans screamed in pain. (Salt Lake City Police Department)

“I wasn’t running,” he recalled to the Salt Lake Tribune. “I wasn’t fighting. I was just cooperating. We’ve been through this. We’ve seen this. Always cooperate with the police, no matter what.”

Bodycam footage showed the Pearce saying “Good boy” to the dog as it latches onto Ryans’ leg, and the man screams in pain. 

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The injury caused Ryans to have multiple surgeries, lose his job, and, in a lawsuit against the Salt Lake City Police Department, he alleged that he now has difficulty walking. Doctors have not ruled out the possibility that he may one day need to have his leg amputated. 

Ryans’ wife had filed an order of protection against her husband in December of last year. However, he said that his wife told him that the order was lifted. He told police that he had been back in their home for weeks. He is currently facing a charge for violating the order, but no court date is pending. 

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Pearce was suspended from his job but has not been terminated. The president of the Salt Lake City Police Association alleges that the decision to charge the officer was politically motivated. 

However, the civilian review board disagreed and said that Ryans was showing “no discernible attempt” to stand up, deciding the officer had less violent options to address the situation. 

Salt Lake City’s mayor, Erin Mendenhall, has suspended the use of the department’s K-9 bite program pending a review. 

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