A Salt Lake City police officer is suspended, and the use of police dogs to engage with suspects has also been suspended, following an incident earlier this year where a cop ordered his dog to bite a Black man who was trying to obey orders, the Salt Lake Tribune reports.
The incident came to light earlier this week after the Tribune published body camera footage showing Salt Lake City Police Officer Nickolas Pearce ordering his dog to bite Jeffery Ryans during an encounter back in April.
“I am deeply concerned that it took a news outlet publishing this video for it to be brought to the attention of senior police department leadership and myself,” Mayor Erin Mendenhall tweeted yesterday while announcing the suspensions. “We will conduct a thorough review of the breakdown in communication to ensure that it does not happen again. I am disturbed by what I saw in that video, frustrated by how the situation was handled and am committed to working to ensure neither happen again.”
Pearce will be suspended pending an investigation into the use of force, while the use of K9s will be suspended until “the policies and practices of that program can be fully reviewed.”
According to the Tribune, police were called to Ryans’s house on April 24 after someone had heard him argue with his wife. The 36-year-old was outside in his backyard smoking a cigarette when officers engaged with him and started screaming.
“Get on the ground!” an officer can be heard yelling. “Get on the ground or you’re gonna get bit.”
Ryans could be seen getting to his knees with his hands in the air, mere seconds before Pearce can be heard instructing the dog to “hit.” The dog responds by attacking Ryans, biting into his leg.
“I am on the ground. Why are you biting me?” Ryans could be heard trying to reason.
“Good boy,” Pearce could be heard telling the dog.
“I felt like a chew toy,” Ryans told the news site. “I didn’t know why this was happening to me. That’s what was going through my mind. Why?”
“I wasn’t running,” he added. “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.”
Ryans ended up sustaining nerve and tendon damage and having to deal with infections as well as difficulty walking. According to the Tribune, there is also still a possibility that doctors will have to amputate his leg.
Ryans is now working on filing a lawsuit against the department, accusing the officer of using unnecessary force.