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SLCPD could face lawsuit after officer orders K-9 to attack Black man

Posted at 8:36 PM, Aug 11, 2020

SALT LAKE CITY — Salt Lake City Police have launched an internal investigation to look at use of force after a man said officers unnecessarily ordered a police K-9 to attack him as he listened to their commands.

That man, Jeffery Ryans, now intends to file a lawsuit and believes police acted aggressively toward him because he is Black.

Body camera footage shows the intense moments from the early morning of April 24 as Ryans kneels with his hands up, and an officer yells "Hit!" triggering the K-9 to rush forward and chomp into Ryans' left leg more than once.

Nearly five months later, Ryans' leg is still bandaged up. He said the wound still hasn't healed. He explained he's gone through surgeries and racked up medical bills.

"I don't know why they had to use that type of force towards me," he said. "I was cooperating. I wasn't a threat to them."

According to what can be heard in police body camera footage, someone called police upon hearing Ryans get into a fight with his wife.

Officers show up to Ryans' home, and they are let inside the front door. They speak to his wife.

"Jeffery!" one officer yells, in an attempt to get him to come to the door.

Another officer can be heard asking his wife, "Is he not supposed to be here? Because he's got a protective order?"

The woman tells officers Ryans was already at the house when she got home.

A third officer with a K-9, who is seen in his body camera footage as walking around the area pacing with the dog, appears to spot Ryans through the fence in the backyard and runs in that direction, the K-9 barking.

"Keep your hands up. Come out here," the officer with the K-9 commands to Ryans.

Ryans stops and responds: "Just going to work." He tells officers that he is leaving for his job.

"Come here! You're going to get bit," the officer replies. "Get out here, or you're going to get bit."

Another officer asks Ryans how to get into the backyard and Ryans explains they need to come around from the other direction. The officer tells Ryans to stay where he is, and stands on the other side of the fence from Ryans.

In the meantime, another officer and the K-9 handler appear to run around the house into the backyard.

"He's trying to jump the fence," the officer says as he runs with the dog.

They approach Ryans, who is standing at the fence with the officer on the other side.

"Get on the ground. Get on the ground or you're going to get bit!" the officer with the K-9 yells.

At least two other officers scream at Ryans to "Get on the ground, all the way down!"

After Ryans kneels down, his hands in the air, the K-9 handler orders his dog to "Hit! Hit! Hit!"

"I'm on the ground! I'm on the ground!" Ryans screams. "Why are you biting me?!"

"Good boy! Good boy!" the officer says to the K-9.

Ryans yells in pain. "Stop... Ow! What the f***! Holy sh**! Ow!"

"Good boy! Hit! Hit! Hit!" the officer shouts, appearing to order the dog to continue biting.

"What the f***! Ow! F***! Ow! Why are you guys doing this?!" Ryans pleads. "Ow!"

Eventually the dog retreats and his handler rewards him with some pats and "Good boy! Good boy!"

Officers get on the radio and ask for paramedics to help Ryans with his injuries. Eventually, they get Ryans up and talk about what happened.

Ryans says he was trying to go to work and thought the protection order against him was lifted, and he was allowed to be at the house. He tells officers he was letting his dog out and didn't know police were there.

One officer tells Ryans he's lying, and says he saw Ryans jump out of the window.

"You should have listened, man. We told you to get down," an officer says.

"Listen to what?" Ryans asks.

"We told you to get down on the ground," the officer responds.

Ryans indicates he was listening.

"That's why I dropped everything, because I don't want to get f*****g shot," he tells police. "I definitely don't want to get bit."

Ryans ended up in the hospital before being booked into jail on a violation of protective order charge. He was released with conditions to follow.

Watching the body camera footage back, Ryans said he could see that he was cooperating with the instructions.

He said he felt like a victim, and a "chew toy" for the officer, to give his dog a treat.

Ryans said that if officers "would have put me in handcuffs, took me to jail, I would have dealt with my situation and then that would be it. Instead of, now I've got to deal with all these medical bills, all this... Golly. It's just crazy."

"It's very difficult not to see how race could play a factor here," said one of Ryans' attorneys, Gabriel K. White.

He and Dan Garner are representing Ryans. They said they believe police violated Ryans' civil rights. They have filed a Notice of Claim with the Salt Lake City Police Department.

If the city doesn't respond in 60 days, they said they will file a lawsuit.

"He wasn't running. He wasn't doing anything that would have the officers have used this type of force," Garner said. "And so his biggest goal in this ... is to add to the conversation that we're having as a nation. That this cant happen again. We need to learn from this."

The Salt Lake City Police Department responded with this statement Tuesday:

"We are aware of the article published by the Salt Lake Tribune today regarding Mr. Jeffery Ryans and his intention to file lawsuit against the Salt Lake City Police Department for excessive use of force involving a police service dog. As there is pending litigation, we are unable to discuss specifics of the case. Although this incident occurred in April there was never an Internal Affairs complaint filed, when we became aware of the situation this morning, an Internal Affairs investigation was immediately launched by our department to determine if the use of force was within policy. That investigation will consider the totality of the events that occurred that night. As with every complaint regarding use of force The Salt Lake City Civilian Review Board has the opportunity to conduct their own separate investigation."