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The Salt Lake City Police Department has suspended an officer who ordered a K9 to bite a man’s leg while he was kneeling with his hands up, leading to serious injuries and several surgeries.
Early on April 20, Jeffery Ryans, a 36-year-old Black man, was arguing with his wife as he was getting ready for work, which prompted someone to call the police, the Salt Lake Tribune reported first.
Ryans’ attorney, Gabriel White, said that Ryans and his wife had a previous argument in December that resulted in his wife filing a protective order against him, but they had since reconciled. Ryans had been back in the house for weeks.
The Salt Lake City Police Department said officers had been called to the home to respond to domestic violence many times, and that related charges are pending against Ryans.
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In April, six police officers and a K9 unit went the residence and found Ryans in the yard, where he was smoking a cigarette and letting the family’s dog out. In bodycam footage, officers can be seen telling him to get on the ground.
“Get on the ground! Get on the ground or you’re gonna get bit,” the K9 officer said as other officers start making similar orders.
Ryans appears to be complying and drops to his knees with his hands up. But the K9 officer still ordered the dog to “hit” as he got closer, prompting the K9 to bite and tear at Ryans’ leg. For 45-60 seconds, the K9 officer continuously orders the dog to “hit,” telling him “good boy" as Ryans yells out in pain on the ground.
Warning: the following video is violent.
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“This was a dog that had been trained to not only bite, but to rip and to tear, and so when you look at his injuries, it looks like he’s been hit by a chainsaw,” Ryans’ lawyer, Gabriel White, said. “It’s the nastiest dog bite I’ve ever seen.”
Ryans had multiple surgeries on his leg, which became infected, and doctors told him it may still need to be amputated.
Ryans’ lawyers filed a notice of claims, the first procedural step in a lawsuit, on June 29. They argue that Ryans was treated unfairly because he is a Black man.
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“This guy had an argument with his wife. Have I ever had an argument with my wife? Sure, we argue, we’re humans. Have I ever gone out at night and let my dog out? Yes,” White said. “Could I ever imagine a whole troop or team of cops descending on a location with an attack dog and a bunch of vehicles to look for me? No.”
The Salt Lake City Police Department said they just heard about the controversial use of the police dog last week. Detective Greg Wilking of the city police said three investigations into the event are taking place, one by the internal affairs department of the police, one by a civilian review board, and one by the Salt Lake City district attorney to determine if criminal charges should be filed.
In the meantime though, the officer has been put on administrative leave and the K9 apprehension program has been suspended pending a review.
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"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 City Mayor Erin Mendenhall tweeted Wednesday.
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