Newly released bodycam footage shows police officers in Salt Lake City, Utah, ordering their K9 dog to attack Jeffery Ryans, a Black man, in his own backyard, despite Ryans obeying their instructions. The footage was recently obtained and shared online by the Salt Lake Tribune but the incident in question occurred on April 24, 2020.
That evening, officers were called to Ryans’ home after neighbors heard him arguing with his wife, the Salt Lake Tribune reported. When officers arrived, as the bodycam video shows, Ryans was standing in his backyard smoking a cigarette. The 36-year-old said afterward that he was about to leave for his job as a train engineer when they arrived. The bodycam video is available below:
The Video Shows Officers Yelling at Ryans to Get on the Ground as One Orders the Police Dog to Attack Him
The video of the interaction begins as they entered his backyard and shone their lights on him, yelling at him to get on the ground. The video shows the dog barking as one of the officers yelled: “Get on the ground! Get on the ground or you’re going to get bit!” Ryans can be seen putting his hands up in the air.
In an interview after the fact, Ryans said as a Black man growing up in Alabama, he learned to cooperate quickly with police officers. In this case, however, he said it was confusing because he wasn’t sure what he should do. One officer was yelling at him to approach, he explained, while another was telling him to get on the ground. He said he was afraid of getting shot if he did the wrong thing.
“I wasn’t running,” he told the Tribune. “I wasn’t fighting. I was just cooperating. We’ve been through this. We’ve seen this. Always cooperate with the police, no matter what.” The bodycam footage shows that even while Ryans was cooperating, kneeling on the ground with his hands up, an officer ordered the K9 dog, Tuco, to attack. The K9 officer also continued to instruct the dog to “hit” Ryans while his colleague was sitting on him putting handcuffs on.
The video shows Ryans screaming in pain, yelling, “Why are you doing this? Why are you biting me?” and “What did I do?” while the officer tells Tuco, “Good boy.” Afterward, Ryans said he “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 Is Suing the Salt Lake City Police Department & His Attorneys Say He Suffered Damage to His Leg
Ryans’ attorneys, Daniel Garner and Gabriel White, have taken the first steps to filing a lawsuit against the police department, which is a notice of claim. In this notice, they accused the responsible officer of unnecessary use of force which caused an injury that wouldn’t have occurred if the right steps were followed during Ryans’ arrest.
Ryans suffered damage to his nerves and tendons in his leg, his attorneys allege, and now has issues walking. According to the Tribune’s report, doctors have not ruled out amputation as a possibility. One of Ryans’ attorneys, White, says that he believes the officers responded in that way because Ryans is Black. He told the Tribune that he’s been in similar situations and been in arguments with his wife, but police officers have never shown up in his backyard, let alone with a K9 dog. “What’s different between the two of us that could make this happen to him, but I couldn’t imagine happening to me? No one’s ever shown up at my house.”
According to the Tribune, Ryans’ wife had filed a protective order against him and he wasn’t supposed to be at the home. However, Ryans said she told him the order was lifted, but they didn’t realize that request was still pending. He said he’d been living there for weeks before the incident in April. He is now facing a charge of violating the protective order.
The Salt Lake City Police Department Issued a Statement About the Incident & It Has Suspended the Use of Police Dogs
While I am unable to fully comment because of the pending litigation, I have conveyed to @ChiefMikeBrown the urgency to complete the internal affairs investigation in the matter of Mr. Jeffery Ryans and be as transparent as possible with the public about the process and results. https://t.co/IaXEiuBt3k
— SLC Mayor Erin Mendenhall (@slcmayor) August 11, 2020
The Salt Lake City police department posted a statement to social media on August 11 that said they were launching an Internal Affairs investigation. On August 12, they updated their statement to indicate that the officer in question was placed on administrative leave “pending the results of these investigations.” The department is also in the process of reviewing its K9 program, the statement reads, and it has suspended the use of K9 dogs until the review is complete.
The statement adds that they cannot discuss specifics because of Ryans’ pending lawsuit, but that the Salt Lake County District Attorney is reviewing the case.
The mayor of Salt Lake City, Erin Mendenhall, also posted about the incident on social media, writing on Facebook about the measures taken by the police department. She wrote, “I am deeply concerned that it took a news outlet publishing this video for it to be brought to the attention of senior police department leadership and myself. We will conduct a thorough review of the breakdown in communication to ensure that it does not happen again. 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.”