Salt Lake County District Attorney’s Office files charges against SLCPD K-9 officer

Screen grab of dog bite video. Center top shows the victim's legs, clad in blue jeans. Bottom right is the K-9 officer's arm, holding the K-9 in place. At left is the arresting officer.

SALT LAKE COUNTY, Utah, Sept. 16, 2020 (Gephardt Daily) — The Salt Lake County District Attorney’s Office has filed charges against Salt Lake City Police Officer Nickolas Pearce based on his alleged actions in April of this year.

A probable cause statement from the 3rd District Court of Salt Lake City said Pearce, 39, from Herriman, has been charged with aggravated assault, a second-degree felony. A summons for his arrest has been issued.

The probable cause statement said the statements and body camera footage of three other officers at the scene reflect that on April 24 in Salt Lake County, they responded to the area of Justin Kay Court on a report of domestic violence. Pearce arrived with his assigned K-9 Officer Tuco.

“After arriving, Officer Pearce saw an individual later identified as Jeffery Ryans, who was the subject of the domestic violence call, on the east side of the residence in the backyard area through a chain link fence that bordered the yard,” the statement said.

“Pearce and K-9 Tuco confronted Ryans through the fence and Pearce told Ryans to get on the ground or he would get bit.”

Two of the other officers, along with Pearce, ordered Ryans, who is Black, to come to the fence to speak to them and asked Ryans how they could access the backyard.

“Ryans complied with the officers’ commands and approached the officers, raised his hands as instructed and told officers they could enter the backyard from the gate on the other side of the house,” the statement said. “Ryans was directed by the officers to remain where he was located.”

One officer remained in the front yard and continued to speak with Ryans through the fence while Pearce, K-9 Tuco and another officer entered the backyard from the west side of the residence. Ryans’ hands were raised and visible while he spoke to the officer, the statement said. Ryans told the officer that he was going to work and that he lived at the residence.

“As Pearce came around the corner of the home with K-9 Tuco, he observed Ryans in the location where he was directed to remain, speaking with the other officer,” the statement said. “Pearce immediately told Ryans to get on the ground and then told him to get on the ground or [he’d] get bit. Ryans kept his hands raised and visible and turned his attention to Pearce and away from the other officer. Ryans did not express any intentions or engage in actions reflecting he was going to resist the officers.”

Approximately three seconds after confronting Ryans, Pearce kicked him in the leg, the statement said.

“Ryans dropped to his knees and kept his hands raised,” the statement said. “While Ryans was on his knees with his hands in the air, Pearce ordered K-9 Tuco to engage Ryans.

When K-9 Tuco engaged and was biting Ryans, Pearce continually praised and
encouraged K-9 Tuco. K-9 Tuco’s biting of Ryans continued while being praised and encouraged by Pearce.”

While he was being attacked by Tuco, Ryans pled with the officers to stop the biting, and questioned why he was being attacked when he was not resisting, the statement said.

Handcuffs were placed on Ryans and due to injuries suffered, emergency medical was called to the scene. His injuries were not described by medical as only puncture wounds from the bites, but rather “large lacerations that medical concluded needed hospital care,” the statement said. Ryans was immediately transferred to the hospital for treatment.

“Ryans’ medical records reflect two lacerations described as approximately 4-inches wide by 3-inches long and approximately 5-inches long by 1-inch wide,” the statement said.

“Ryans’ injuries required surgical care to properly treat the wounds and resulted in Ryans’ prolonged loss of the use of his left leg following surgery. Complications resulting from the dog bites have resulted in protracted impairment of his leg and permanent disfigurement of the leg due to visible scarring from the dog bites.”

The Salt Lake City Police Department released the following statement Wednesday afternoon:

“The SLCPD has been informed of the District Attorney’s decision to file criminal charges against Officer Nickolas Pearce stemming from the April 24, 2020 incident involving Officer Pearce, one of the Department’s K-9 officers, and Mr. Jeffery Ryans.

“The department has also received the report from the independent investigation conducted by the City’s Civilian Review Board.

“The department takes the District Attorney’s decision and the Civilian Review Board’s findings very seriously. Both will be evaluated and taken into account as the department is finalizing its Internal Affairs investigation.

“If Internal Affairs finds that Officer Pearce committed a policy violation, the chief’s office will follow the disciplinary process required under state and federal law. This can take some time, but we will carry this out as expediently as possible to bring a prompt conclusion to this matter.”

Pearce is presumed innocent until proven guilty in a court of law, the statement said.

Attorneys for Ryans released body camera footage of the incident last month.

The video below is disturbing and contains adult language. Viewer discretion is advised.


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