Utah cop charged with aggravated assault after violent K9 attack
Utah cop charged with aggravated assault after violent K9 attack

The Salt Lake County District Attorney’s Office has charged a Salt Lake City K9 officer with aggravated assault in connection with an April 24 incident.

Officer Nickolas John Pearce, 39, responded to a report of domestic violence that day. Pearce is accused of commanding his K9, “Tuco,” to bite Jeffery Ryans, even though Ryans was on his knees and had his hands in the air.

“When K9 Tuco engaged and was biting Ryans, [Pearce] continually praised and encouraged K9 Tuco,” a probable cause statement said. “While he was being attacked by K9 Tuco, Ryans expressed extreme emotions reflective of pain from being bitten by K9 Tuco and plead with the officers to stop the biting. He questioned why he was being attacked when he was not resisting.”

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 a protective order.

In an interview with Fox 13 Wednesday, Salt Lake County District Attorney Sim Gill said they looked to see if the force used was reasonable.

“And in this case, the conclusion of our attorneys when we reviewed the body cam video, we looked at the reports that were generated, and we could find no lawful reason to use that police dog in the fashion that it did and resulting in the injury caused on Mr. Ryans,” Gill said.

Jeanetta Williams, President of the NAACP Salt Lake Branch, released this statement:

While the NAACP supports effective law enforcement, we must also exercise our constitutional rights to ensure law enforcement works as it should to protect all Americans regardless of race or ethnicity. The NAACP reviewed the video and based upon the law, agree with District Attorney Sim Gill. The NAACP has concerns over the officer’s conduct and felt that his actions were not within the policy of the police department. The victim was complying to the officer’s commands and was not resisting. The victim was doing everything that we tell folks to do, yet the K-9 officer Pearce ordered his dog to attack the victim while he clearly had his hands up and the victim was saying, “I am complying.”

(Warning: the following body camera video contains graphic language and violence)

“I don’t know why they had to use that type of force towards me,” Ryans said in an interview with FOX 13. “I was cooperating. I wasn’t a threat to them.”

Ryans, a Black man, said police often treat Black people differently, and he wants people to see it happens in Utah too.

“It’s very difficult not to see how race could play a factor here,” said one of Ryans’ attorneys, Gabriel K. White, in an interview last month.

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