The Salt Lake City Police Department is suspending its K9 unit after an officer’s body camera footage shows a dog biting a black man with his hands up, the department announced Wednesday.
The disturbing video, published by the Salt Lake Tribune Tuesday, shows officers and the dog approaching Jeffery Ryans, 36, outside of his home during the April 24 altercation, with one cop ordering Ryans to “get on the ground or you’re going to get bit.”
As Ryans kneels to the ground with his hands up the officers get closer and the leashed dog, named Turco, begins biting and pulling at his left leg, the Tribune reported.
“I’m on the ground! Why are you biting me?!” Ryans yells in the clip.
Ryans begins shrieking in pain as the K9 officer in the encounter, Nickolas Pearce, praises the dog with “good boy” several times.
“Why are you guys — ow, what the f–k!? Holy s–t!” Ryans screams. “Why the f–k are you biting me!?”
Warning: Graphic images and language
Ryans told the Tribune he was in his backyard smoking a cigarette as he prepared to leave for his job as a train engineer when the officers arrived. The cops were called to his house after he was heard arguing with his wife, the paper reported.
Ryans was arrested that night because his wife had filed a protective order last December against him that barred him from being at the home, the Tribune reported.
He reportedly faces domestic assault charges, but Ryans said his wife told him the order was lifted and that he had been living at the home for weeks before the arrest.
One of Ryans’ lawyers, Gabriel White, described the altercation with his wife to NBC News as a minor “marital disagreement” and that it wasn’t clear who called the police to whom.
The Salt Lake City Police Department said its senior leadership did not become aware of the incident until the Tribune brought the altercation to light.
In addition to the suspension of the K9 unit, Pearce was placed on administrative leave as the city’s internal affairs department investigate excessive use of force, the department said Wednesday in a statement.
“SLCPD has also launched a thorough review process of the K9 apprehension program by external subject matter experts,” the department said. “In the meantime, SLCPD has suspended this K9 function until we review policies, procedures, training, and actual application in the field.”
The footage drew outrage from local officials, including the city’s mayor, Erin Mendenhall, who said she was “deeply disturbed” that the heads of the department were not previously made aware of the use of force.
“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,” Mendenhall tweeted Wednesday.
Ryans told the Tribune he’s had trouble walking after the dog bite, which caused nerve and tendon damage and had become infected. He’s preparing to file a lawsuit against the city over the incident.
“I felt like a chew toy,” he said in an interview with the Tribune. “I didn’t know why this was happening to me. That’s what was going through my mind. Why?”