A Salt Lake City police officer is facing felony charges after ordering a police dog to bite a black man who was complying with his orders.
The scene was captured in body camera footage collected from the police officer and released from the SLCPD in August.
In the video, officer Nickolas Pearce walks around a corner with his police dog in tow. He shines a flashlight at Jeffery Ryans, who is standing near a gate, and orders him to get on the ground.
“Get on the ground, or you’re gonna get bit,” Mr Pearce yells.
Mr Ryans begins to kneel, but appears confused as police descend on him. As Mr Ryans drops to his knees with his hands raised, Mr Pearce appears to kick out his leg and instructs the dog to bite him.
The dog begins to bite into Mr Ryan’s leg, who falls to the ground, his hands still above his head, and asks the police why they are attacking him.
“I’m on the ground, why are you biting me,” he asks, before yelping in pain from the dog’s continued grasp on his leg.
As Mr Ryans continues to ask why he’s being bitten between exclamations of pain, Mr Pearce can be heard saying “good boy, good boy” to the police dog.
According to The Washington Post, Mr Pearce is facing criminal charges for using excessive force in the arrest of Mr Ryans. The SLCPD announced the charges on Wednesday.
Salt Lake City District Attorney Sim Gill told the Salt Lake Tribune that the charges were being brought against Mr Pearce because Mr Ryans wasn’t resisting arrest.
“He certainly wasn’t posing an imminent threat of violence or harm to anyone, and he certainly wasn’t concealed,” Mr Gill said. “He was fenced in an area and was being compliant.”
The night of the incident, Mr Ryans’ daughter called 911 in the early hours of 24 April claiming her father was screaming and that he had hit her mother. Mr Ryans’ wife had previously taken out a protective order against him, which prohibited him from entering the house.
A later investigation by the city’s Civilian Review Board found that Mr Ryans’ wife had willingly let him in, and that he was of the understanding that the order had been lifted.
Police found Mr Ryans outside the home smoking a cigarette before leaving for his job as a train conductor.
The police dog maintained a hold on Mr Ryans’ leg for nearly a minute before Mr Pearce ordered it to stop. Officers at the scene had to call a paramedic to examine Mr Ryans’ injured leg.
Mr Ryans’ lawyer claims that he has had to undergo several surgeries and that his leg may need to be amputated.
Mr Ryans is suing the police department for its role in his injuries.
The city’s Civilian Review Board found that the Mr Pearce’s sergeant reviewed the body camera footage and sent it to his lieutenant, but the lieutenant – who has since retired – never forwarded the footage to his supervisors or to the department’s internal affairs division.
The lieutenant’s retirement was unrelated to this incident.
Mr Pearce was suspended in August after the Salt Lake Tribune published the body camera footage. The city has since suspended its use of police dogs.
Mr Pearce is charged with second-degree felony aggravated assault, which could carry a prison term of up to 15 years.