Salt Lake City K-9 officer facing new assault charge

Local News
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SALT LAKE CITY (ABC4) – New charges have been filed against a Salt Lake City Police officer already under investigation for a K-9 incident he was involved in.

Court documents show 39-year-old Nickolas Pearce is now facing an additional felony count of aggravated assault for allegedly lifting his K-9, Tuco, to bite a woman in a suspected stolen car.

In September, Pearce was charged with aggravated assault after body camera footage showed the officer encourage Tuco to bite a man that police say was complying with their directives in April 2020.

That man’s medical records show he had two lacerations that were approximately 4 inches wide by 3 inches long, and approximately 5 inches long by 1 inch wide. His injuries required surgery and resulted in prolonged loss of the use of his left leg following surgery.

Investigators have now charged him with a second county of aggravated assault for a November 2019 incident in Salt Lake County.

In this incident, an officer initiated a traffic stop after finding that a vehicle had been registered as stolen. The woman driving the vehicle complied with the officer’s requests, including throwing the keys of the car out the window, as well as putting her hands out the window.

Additional officers, including Pearce and K-9 Tuco, arrived on scene, where the woman continued to comply and “was not making any threats or aggressive moves towards the officers,” according to court documents.

Investigators say that despite this, Pearce directed Tuco to the vehicle, lifted him to reach the woman’s arms, and instructed him to “hit.” Tuco then bit the woman’s arm and pulled it down. Officers then had to pull the woman out of the vehicle.

Authorities report that woman suffered significant lacerations to her arm, which required immediate medical attention, including stitches.

The Salt Lake Police Association released a statement Wednesday in response to the additional charge, saying in part:

The Police Association and its Members continue to have the utmost and fiercest support for all of our officers and members currently being scrutinized by DA Sim Gill’s office. It is our understanding the DA’s Office currently has 2 full-time prosecutors and 2 full-time paralegals assigned to work solely on the SLCPD K9 incidents.

Instead of using these employees to investigate and prosecute criminal cases, Sim Gill has 4 of his staff members investigating one of the most decorated K9 units in the state of Utah. Sim Gill’s office has been looking into some of these cases as far back as May of 2020. A year of time wasted by the DA led to only two unjustified charges. This seems to be a gross misappropriation of taxpayer dollars – we believe would be better spent prosecuting criminals posing the greatest threat to our city.

“Through all of this, the Police Association and its Members have never wavered in our overwhelming support and confidence we have in our K9 Unit. We firmly believe that these officers and their K9 partners acted within department policy, city ordinance and state law. We will continue to support them during this ridiculous witch hunt led by Sim Gill.

You can read the Association’s full statement here.

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