Charges filed against Salt Lake City Police K9 officer in attack on Black man who was in compliance

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SALT LAKE CITY, Utah (ABC4 News) – The Salt Lake County District Attorney’s Office has filed charges against a Salt Lake City Police K9 officer for injuries a man received by his dog while complying with officers orders.

Salt Lake City Police Officer Nickolas Pearce faces charges of second-degree felony aggravated assault that were filed Wednesday in Third-District Court.

Body camera footage shows two Salt Lake Police Department officers responded to a home on Justin Kay Court on a report of domestic violence on April 24. Officer Pearce also arrived with his assigned K9, Tuco.

After arriving, Officer Pearce saw the subject of the domestic violence call, in the backyard area through a chain-link fence that bordered the yard.

Documents state Pearce and K9 Tuco confronted the man through the fence. All three officers ordered the man to come to the fence to speak to them and asked him how they could access the backyard.

The man complied with the officers’ commands and approached the officers, raised his
hands as instructed, and told officers they could enter the backyard from the gate on the other side
of the house. The man was instructed to stay where he was located.

One officer continued to speak with the man through the fence while Pearce, K9 Tuco, and the other officer entered the backyard. The man’s hands were raised and visible while he spoke to the officers.

The man told the officer that he was going to work and that he lived at the residence.

Documents state Pearce came around the corner of the home with K9 Tuco, observed him still in
the location where he was directed to stay. Pearce immediately told the man to get on the ground or he would get bit. The man kept his hands raised and visible and turned his attention towards Pearce.

Documents state the man did not engage in any actions indicating he was going to resist the officers but three seconds after confronting the suspect, Pearce kicked him in the leg.

The man dropped to his knees with his hands raised in the air and Pearce then ordered the K9 to attack him. When K9 Tuco was biting the man, Pearce continually praised and encouraged K9 Tuco, documents state.

Documents continue to state the man expressed extreme pain from being bitten by the K9, pleading with the officers to stop the biting. He questioned why he was being attacked when he was not resisting. One of the other officers then placed him in handcuffs.

Emergency medical teams were called to the scene to treat the man who had large lacerations that needed hospital care. He was immediately transferred to the hospital for treatment.

The 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.

Complications resulting from the dog bites have resulted in protracted impairment of his leg and permanent disfigurement of the leg due to visible scarring from the dog bites.

Salt Lake City Police has issued the following statement:

“The Salt Lake City Police Department has been informed of the District Attorney’s decision to file criminal charges against Officer Nickolas Pearce stemming from the April 24, 2020 incident involving Officer Pearce, one of the Department’s K9 officers, and (omitted name for privacy).

The Department has also received the report from the independent investigation conducted by the City’s Civilian Review Board.

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.

If Internal Affairs finds that Officer Pearce committed a policy violation, the Chief’s Office will follow the disciplinary process required under state and federal law. This can take some time, but we will carry this out as expediently as possible to bring a prompt conclusion to this matter.”

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