Salt Lake City has suspended the K-9 officer seen in a video showing him commanding his dog to repeatedly bite a black man.
Salt Lake City District Attorney’s Office accused Salt Lake City Officer Nickolas Pearce of aggravated assault following the April 23 incident in which he ordered his dog to bite Jeffery Ryan after responding to a domestic call.
Video footage released last month by The Salt Lake Tribune shows Pearce with a K9 dog approaching Ryan, 36, in his backyard.
“Get on the ground! Get on the ground, or you’ll be a little bit,” Pearce says in the video.
Prosecutors said Pearce kicked Ryan in his leg and forced him to his knees. Pearce then ordered the dog to “hit” and the dog bites into Ryans’ left leg for about 20 seconds while another officer handcuffed him, the video shows.
“Good boy,” Pearce says to the dog, while Ryan shouts, “I’m on the ground. Why are you biting me?”
“[Ryans] did not resist the arrest, “Salt Lake County District Attorney Sim Gill told Salt Lake City on Wednesday. “He certainly does not pose an imminent threat of violence or harm to anyone, and he was certainly not hidden. He was fenced in an area and followed. ”
Salt Lake City police said in a statement Wednesday that they take the district attorney’s decision and the civil audit findings “very seriously.”
“Both will be evaluated and taken into account when the department is finalizing its internal affairs investigation. If internal affairs find out that Officer Pearce committed a policy violation, the Chief’s Office will follow the disciplinary process required by state and federal law, “the statement said.
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Ryan told The Tribune last month that he was confused by officers’ orders when one asked him to come to the ground while another ordered him to come to him.
“I did not run,” he told the newspaper. “I did not fight. I just cooperated. We have been through this. We have seen this. Always cooperate with the police, no matter what.”
Pearce told the Civilian Review Board that he ordered the dog to bite because he felt that ryans grabbing the fence with one hand would allow him to stand up and fight the officers, the board report said.
After the bodycam footage was released by The Tribune, Salt Lake City Mayor Erin Mendenhall announced that police had suspended Pearce and the use of K9 dogs on suspects.
One of Ryans’ pendants, Dan Garner, told the United States TODAY last month that Ryans was “emotionally drained” from the incident. Garner said his client wanted reforms, including the ability to file excessive power complaints without interacting with police and an end to qualified immunity.
Ryans lost his job as a train engineer and had several surgeries after the attack, according to The Tribune.
Garner did not immediately respond to a U.S. TODAY phone call seeking comment Wednesday.
Contribution: Joshua Bote, USA TODAY; Associated Press
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