Charges Filed Against SLCPD Officer Whose K-9 Partner Bit Complying Man

Sep 16, 2020, 1:48 PM | Updated: 8:21 pm

SALT LAKE CITY, Utah – The Salt Lake County District Attorney’s Office on Wednesday announced charges have been filed against a police officer who allegedly let his K-9 partner attack a man who had his hands in the air.

Salt Lake City police officer Nickolas John Pearce, 39, of Herriman, has been charged with aggravated assault, a second-degree felony.

“Most of the time we are looking for use of lethal force, but in this case, we also needed to see if there was any lawful use of force being used,” said Salt Lake County District Attorney Sim Gill. “It is not about charging police officers. It is about charging someone who engaged in criminal conduct regardless of what their status is. And in this case, we had both the evidence and the behavior that constitutes a violation of the law.” 

KSL-TV obtained findings from the Salt Lake City Citizen Review Board that ruled the officer’s actions were not in line with the department’s policies.

“The failure of the lieutenant to report this incident up the chain is disturbing and unacceptable,” the report said. “In this matter, there does not seem to be an attempt by Officer Pearce to deescalate the matter. In almost his first words he makes the command for Mr. Ryans to come to him and if he does not, the threat of him getting ‘bit’ is issued.”

The report continued, “But the subject must exhibit some type of behavior or action that would necessitate the use of the K-9, something beyond ‘contempt of cop’ or disregard of commands.”

The charges stem from an incident in April when police were called to a residence after a neighbor called heard arguing. Jeffery Ryans was at the home of his wife, who at the time had a protective order against him. However, she said the order was in the process of being lifted, and she was allowing Ryans to stay at the house for a few weeks.

Police questioned Ryans’ wife before they found Ryans in the backyard, and they ordered him to kneel on the ground.

Body camera footage from the incident shows Ryans raising his hands. Despite appearing to comply, Pearce allows the K-9 to bite Ryans. In the video, Ryans can be heard screaming, “Why are you biting me?”

Pearce was put on leave in August, and the police department suspended its use of police dogs to engage with suspects.

Attorney Gabriel White, who is representing Ryans, said his client intends to sue the police department for excessive use of force.

“My client is from the South,” White said. “He knows if you don’t comply, you might get shot, so even if the police are wrong, you comply and live to fight another day. He was complying with their orders and was not a threat.”

White said Ryans has to have multiple operations and he’s dealing with infections due to the bite.

“He still might lose his leg,” White said.

Officials with the Salt Lake City Police Department released a statement saying, “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.”

The statement also said if Internal Affairs determines officer Pearce violated police policy, any resulting disciplinary action will follow a process that is required by state and federal law.

That process could take some time, according to the release but the department would complete it as promptly as possible.

KSL 5 TV Live

Top Stories

Local News

Salt Lake City police responding to a shooting at the Downtown West apartment complex. (SLC PD)...
Michael Houck & Lauren Steinbrecher

One person in critical condition after shooting at Salt Lake City apartment complex

Salt Lake City police are investigating a shooting with several people detained Sunday evening. 
1 day ago
Layton police responding to a barricaded suspect in an apartment building. (Courtesy: Phoenix Antho...
Michael Houck

SWAT arrest fugitive who hid in an Layton apartment complex

A wanted fugitive is in police custody after hiding out in a Layton apartment complex Sunday afternoon.
1 day ago
Guest Haus, one of the six businesses, taking part of the recycling pilot program....
Shelby Lofton

Park City introduces reusable food container pilot program

Tossed food take-out containers could be a thing of the past for Park City as it's launching a pilot program that reimagines the doggie bag.
1 day ago
The three car crash, causing roads to be blocked on SR-36. (Courtesy: Colleen Shuman)...
Michael Houck

Three vehicle crash closes portion of SR-36, one person flown to hospital

One person has serious injuries after a crash caused a trailer to flip and strike another vehicle Sunday afternoon.
1 day ago
Wildlife officials responding to the cougar incident....
Michael Houck & Lauren Steinbrecher

Trail runner hurt by cougar in Millcreek Canyon, DWR found and euthanized the animal

A runner was hurt by a cougar after accidentally into it on a trail in Millcreek Canyon.
1 day ago
Paraglider crashed into mountain and was hoisted to the U of U in critical condition....
Brooke Williams

Life Flight responds to critical condition paragliding crash up Olympus Cove Sunday

Paraglider crashed into mountain and was hoisted by Life Flight to the U of U in critical condition.
1 day ago

Sponsored Articles

young woman with stickers on laptop computer...
Les Olson

7 ways print marketing materials can boost your business

Custom print marketing materials are a great way to leave an impression on clients or customers. Read for a few ideas to spread the word about your product or company.
young woman throwing clothes to organize a walk in closet...
Lighting Design

How to organize your walk-in closet | 7 easy tips to streamline your storage today

Read our tips to learn how to organize your walk-in closet for more storage space. These seven easy tips can help you get the most out of your space.
Types of Computer Malware and Examples...
PC Laptops

5 Nasty Types of Computer Malware and Examples | Everything You Need to Know to Keep Your Computer and Family Safe

Here are the different types of computer malware and examples that could potentially infect your computer.
tips how to quit smoking...

7 Tips How to Quit Smoking | Quitting Smoking Might be One of the Hardest Things You Ever Do but Here’s Where You Can Start

Quitting smoking cigarettes can be incredibly difficult. Here are 7 tips how to quit smoking to help you on your quitting journey.
Photo: Storyblocks...
Blue Stakes of Utah 811

Blue Stakes of Utah 811: 5 Reasons To Call 811 Before You Dig When Working in Your Yard

Call before you dig. Even at home, you could end up with serious injuries or broken utilities just because you didn't call Blue Stakes of Utah 811.
Days of...
Days of '47 Rodeo

TRIVIA: How well do you know your rodeo? Take this quiz before you go to the Days of ’47!

The Utah Days of ’47 Rodeo presented by Zions Bank is a one-of-a-kind Gold Medal Rodeo being held July 20-23, 25 at 7:30 PM. The Days of ’47 Rodeo How well do you know your rodeo trivia? Take the quiz to test your know-all before heading out to the Days of ’47 Rodeo at the […]
Charges Filed Against SLCPD Officer Whose K-9 Partner Bit Complying Man