A Utah officer has been charged with felony assault after he ordered his police dog to attack a Black man who was complying with officers' orders.
According to The Salt Lake Tribune, the incident took place on April 24, when authorities responded to a domestic disturbance report at a Salt Lake City residence. Bodycam footage shows officers approaching 36-year-old Jeffery Ryans in his yard, before telling him to "get on the ground or you're gonna get bit." The man then drops to his knees and puts his hands in the air, before officer Nickolas J. Pearce is heard telling his K-9 Tuco to "hit" Ryans. The dog then sinks his teeth into the man's right leg, causing Ryans to scream in pain.
"I’m on the ground, I’m on the ground. Why are you biting me," Ryans says.
"Good boy," 39-year-old Pearce repeatedly tells his dog.
On Wednesday, just weeks after authorities began reviewing the case, the Salt Lake County District Attorney's Office charged Pearce with second-degree felony aggravated assault. The 14-year police veteran will reportedly face up to 15 years in prison if convicted.
"[Ryans] wasn't resisting arrest," said Sim Gill, the Salt Lake County district attorney. "He certainly wasn't posing an imminent threat of violence or harm to anyone and he certainly wasn’t concealed. He was fenced in an area and was being compliant."
The SLCPD suspended Pearce shortly after the review began and prohibited the use of police dogs in arrests until officials could review K9-related policies.
Ryans reportedly intends to file a civil lawsuit against the police department, claiming the incident left him with "lasting injuries."
"I wasn’t running," he told the 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.”