SLCO DA files charges against Salt Lake City PD K-9 officer

Sep 16, 2020, 3:07 PM | Updated: 4:43 pm
K-9 attack...
FILE: Jeffery Ryans is seen in police body camera footage recorded Friday, April 24, 2020. Ryans was bitten by a police K-9 after he was already kneeling with his hands in the air. The officer involved in that case now faces charges both for that incident and another involving a suspect suffering a bite. (Photo credit: Salt Lake City Police Department)
(Photo credit: Salt Lake City Police Department)

SALT LAKE CITY — The Salt Lake County District Attorney’s office filed aggravated assault charges on Wednesday against a Salt Lake City Police Department (SLCPD) officer, who is accused of commanding a K9 officer to bite a Black man who at the time of the biting had his hands in the air.

A probable cause statement alleges that officer Nickolas Pearce attempted, with unlawful force, to do “bodily injury to another or created a substantial risk of bodily injury, using a dangerous weapon.”

Pearce, 39 years old and from Herriman, Utah, was charged in 3rd District Court.

On April 24, Pearce and two other officers, as well as a K9 officer, responded to a report of domestic violence at 765 W. Justin Kay Court in Salt Lake City.

The officers are alleged to have confronted Jeffery Ryans, a Black man and the subject of the domestic violence call, outside of the house. They reportedly told Ryans to get on the ground or he would be bitten. The statement indicates that Ryans complied with the officers’ commands and approached them with raised hands.

One officer remained in the front yard of the home with Ryans, while Pearce, the K9 officer and Officer Jewkes entered the backyard of the residence.

The charges state “Ryans did not express any intentions or engage in actions reflecting he was going to resist the officers.”

But seconds after confronting Ryans, investigators say Pearce kicked him in the leg.

“Ryans dropped to his knees and kept his hands raised. While Ryans was on his knees with his hands in the air, Pearce ordered K-9 Tuco to engage Ryans,” the charging documents state. While the dog was biting Ryans, Pearce “continually praised and encouraged K-9 Tuco.”

According to the Police Civilian Review Board, although Det. Pearce gave the command to “hit” a total of four times, the K9 was only involved in a single bite. The dog held onto Ryans’ leg until he was commanded to let go.

Responses to the charges

The Salt Lake City Police Department said it is taking the charges seriously.

“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,” SLC PD said in a statement.

When reached for comment by KSL TV, Salt Lake City Mayor Erin Mendenhall said she appreciated the fast response on the part of the DA Sim Gill.

“I appreciate the District Attorney’s quick work on this investigation,” said Mayor Mendenhall, “and remain committed to the mandate before us to make progressive change in the way we approach policing. 

Mendenhall also said that the Salt Lake City Police Department’s K9 bite program remains suspended, “pending the outcome of policy and procedure reviews by both the Department and the Commission on Racial Equity in Policing.”


This story will be updated.


We want to hear from you.

Have a story idea or tip? Send it to the KSL NewsRadio team. here.

Today’s Top Stories


Screen shot....
Mark Jones

Crash on westbound I-80 creates heavy delays

Traffic has come to a near stop on westbound I-80 Friday evening due to a traffic accident.
18 hours ago
police, lights, siren, emergency, law, officer, flashing, crime, cops, patrol, arrest, lock, speedi...
Chandler Holt

Speeder escapes after striking police vehicle

The driver entered the freeway and sped up to evade police. The suspect struck a Layton City officers vehicle before taking off again.
18 hours ago
Wasatch County Sheriff's Office...
Mark Jones

Highland man dies in snowmobile accident in Wasatch County

A 51-year-old man from Highland died in a snowmobile accident Tuesday afternoon in Wasatch County, according to the Wasatch County Sheriff's Office.
2 days ago
Salt Lake City Police took a 44-year-old man into custody on Wednesday in connection to the burglar...
Mark Jones

Salt Lake City Police announce third arrest in September homicide

Salt Lake City Police say a third person has been taken into custody in connection to a September homicide.
2 days ago
The Duchesne County Sheriff's Office says a suspect is in stable condition following an officer-inv...
Mark Jones

Suspect hospitalized after officer-involved shooting in Duchesne County

A suspect is in stable condition following an officer-involved shooting Monday night in Duchesne County.
3 days ago
a car is pictured it might have been involved in a provo hit-and-run...
Aimee Cobabe

Provo Police looking for information about two cars in deadly hit-and-run

Police are asking anyone with information about the hit-and-run to contact Provo Police Detective Smith at csmith@provo.org. 
3 days ago

Sponsored Articles

Spicy Homemade Loaded Taters Tots...

5 game day snacks for the whole family (with recipes!)

Try these game day snacks to make watching football at home with your family feel like a special occasion. 
Happy joyful smiling casual satisfied woman learning and communicates in sign language online using...

The best tools for Deaf and hard-of-hearing workplace success

Here are some of the best resources to make your workplace work better for Deaf and hard-of-hearing employees.
Team supporters celebrating at a tailgate party...

8 Delicious Tailgate Foods That Require Zero Prep Work

In a hurry? These 8 tailgate foods take zero prep work, so you can fuel up and get back to what matters most: getting hyped for your favorite
christmas decorations candles in glass jars with fir on a old wooden table...
Western Nut Company

12 Mason Jar Gift Ideas for the 12 Days of Christmas [with recipes!]

There are so many clever mason jar gift ideas to give something thoughtful to your neighbors or friends. Read our 12 ideas to make your own!
wide shot of Bear Lake with a person on a stand up paddle board...

Pack your bags! Extended stays at Bear Lake await you

Work from here! Read our tips to prepare for your extended stay, whether at Bear Lake or somewhere else nearby.
young boy with hearing aid...

Accommodations for students who are deaf and hard of hearing

These different types of accommodations for students who are deaf and hard of hearing can help them succeed in school.
SLCO DA files charges against Salt Lake City PD K-9 officer