The Salt Lake City Police Department has suspended its K9 program following the release of body camera footage that depicted a Black man being bitten by a police dog despite being on his knees with his hands up.
According to NBC News, the department launched a review into the program’s policies and training procedures with the assistance of outside experts. Additional investigations have been launched into the April 24 incident that left Jeffrey Ryans, 36, with injuries so severe they may result in amputation, according to Ryans’ lawyers. Nickolas Pearce, the K9 officer involved in the incident, was placed on administrative leave pending investigations by the city’s civilian review board and internal affairs.
On Tuesday, disturbing body camera footage was released that showed Ryans standing in his backyard, talking to the officers. He tells the officers he’s “just going to work,” and one of the officers can be heard asking about how to get around the house, while another is heard saying Ryans intends to jump the fence. Pearce then approaches Ryans and says, “Get on the ground or you’re going to get bit.” Ryans gets on his knees with his hands up when Pearce says “hit.” The dog begins to attack Ryans and Pearce can be heard saying “Good boy,” while Ryans cries out in pain and asks why the dog is attacking him.
“I felt like a chew toy. I didn’t know why this was happening to me. That’s what was going through my mind. Why?” Ryans told the Salt Lake Tribune.
“I am disturbed by what I saw in that video, frustrated by how the situation was handled, and am committed to working to ensure neither happen again,” Salt Lake Mayor Erin Mendenhall said in a tweet on Wednesday. Daniel Garner and Gabriel White, Ryans’ attorneys, have said that he suffered damage to his nerves and tendons, infection and still has trouble walking. Doctors haven’t ruled out that Ryans may need to have his leg amputated. “We’ve seen lots of dog bites, but this one looks like something else,” White told NBC News. “I would’ve assumed he had an accident with a chainsaw.”
This whole situation, to put it plainly, is fucked. Dude completely complied with what was asked of him and he still wound up having his body brutalized. What makes matters even worse is that something is only being done now because the video came out. The department had four months to do something and they just didn’t.
Salt Lake City police spokesman Detective Greg Wilking said that the officers were responding to a call about domestic violence. Last year, Ryans’ wife had obtained a protective order while they were separated but they reconciled earlier this year, and Ryans moved back in to help with their children at the start of the coronavirus pandemic. Ryans’ wife thought the order was lifted after speaking with someone at the local district attorney’s office. “Unbeknownst to her, a judge has to lift it,” Garner said. In the body camera footage, officers could be heard telling Ryans he violated the protective order and wasn’t supposed to be there. Ryans was arrested on suspicion of violating a protective order but a court date has yet to be set. It’s not known who made the initial call to the police.
In June, Ryans took the first step in filing a lawsuit by submitting a notice of claim that gives police officials 60 days to respond. “If they take responsibility, there won’t be a lawsuit,” Garner said. Ryans was laid off from his job as a train engineer and, according to his lawyers, his multiple surgeries have put him tens of thousands in debt.
“My client’s main goal is to see the reforms that the nation has been having a conversation about,” Garner said. “And he’s got a mountain of medical bills he has to deal with now.”