Officer charged with felony after ordering K-9 to bite Black man who was complying with orders

SALT LAKE CITY — The Salt Lake City officer who ordered a police dog to attack a Black man who was on his knees has been has been charged with a felony.

Nickolas John Pearce was charged with aggravated assault Wednesday according to KSL-TV.

BREAKING NEWS: Charges have been filed against an SLCPD officer who allowed his K-9 partner to bite a suspect who was complying with police commands.

Posted by KSL 5 TV on Wednesday, September 16, 2020

Last month, Mayor Erin Mendenhall tweeted that the use of police dogs “to engage with suspects” will also be suspended until the city can review its policies and practices.

That announcement came after The Salt Lake Tribune published graphic body camera footage of Officer Nickolas Pearce ordering his dog to bite Jeffery Ryans on the morning of April 20.

The body camera footage shows Ryans, 36, on his knees and with his hands in the air, KSTU reported. The dog, named Tuco, is shown biting Ryans’ leg as another officer sat on top of the man and put him into handcuffs, the television station reported.

“Get on the ground,” an officer can be heard on the video telling Ryans. “Get on the ground or you’re gonna get bit.”

“I’m on the ground, I’m on the ground,” Ryans responds. “Why are you biting me?

“I’m on the ground, stop.”

Ryans was hospitalized and later was booked into jail on a violation of a protective order charge, KSTU reported. He was released with conditions to follow.

“I don’t know why they had to use that type of force towards me,” Ryans told the television station. “I was cooperating. I wasn’t a threat to them.”

“It’s very difficult not to see how race could play a factor here,” one of Ryans’ attorneys, Gabriel K. White, told KSTU.