Officer charged in one K-9 attack now faces charges in second case

May 12, 2021, 3:29 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 — A K-9 officer charged in connection with an attack on a Black man who had his hands up now faces charges in a second case involving an unarmed woman. 

First K-9 attack involved Black man with hands up

Nickolas Pearce, 39, of Herriman, was charged with aggravated assault in September 2020, for an incident involving his K-9, Tuco, while responding to a domestic violence call.

Officers responded to a home near 765 W. Justin Kay Court. According to charging documents, the officers encountered Jeffery Ryans, 36, in the backyard, and ordered him to put his hands in the air, which he did. 

Related: Salt Lake City Police Department suspends K-9 officer policy

The charges allege that in spite of Ryans’ compliance, Pearce kicked him in the leg, which prompted Ryans to drop to his knees. 

While Ryans was on his knees with his hands in the air, Pearce ordered K-9 Tuco to engage Ryans,” the charging documents state.

According to those charging documents, Ryans required surgery for his wounds and will always bear a scar. 

Second case involved stolen vehicle, documents say

This week, the Salt Lake County District Attorney’s Office filed amended charges naming Pearce, essentially adding a second biting incident to the accusations against him. 

In that case, police pulled over a possible stolen SUV in November 2019, near 600 West and 100 South in Salt Lake City. According to the updated charging documents, the woman behind the wheel complied with commands to toss the keys out and hold her hands out of the window. But she stayed in the vehicle when police ordered her to get out. 

“(She) was not making any threats or aggressive moves toward the officers and did not do so during the entirety of the arrest. Several other officers arrived on the scene and surrounded the vehicle with weapons drawn,” the charges continued. 

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

The charging documents showed she was unarmed. Next, the charges say Pearce allegedly held his K-9 Tuco up in order to reach the woman’s arms, ordering the dog to “hit” or bite her arm.

The charging documents say Nellieana Langi, 26, who later pleaded “guilty and mentally ill” to theft, required stitches and will also continue to bear a scar.

Next steps

Pearce and the other members of the Salt Lake City Police Department (SLCPD) K-9 unit, five officers in all, remain on paid administrative leave. Both the SLCPD and the Salt Lake County District Attorney’s Office continue to investigate use of force within the K-9 unit. 

Pearce is scheduled for a preliminary hearing on both charges in June. 


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Officer charged in one K-9 attack now faces charges in second case