Salt Lake City, UT — In September, TFTP reported on Officer Nickolas Pearce, and his subsequent charges after he forced his K-9 to maul a kneeling, unarmed, surrendered man with his hands in the air. Pearce’s case has since shed light on the use of K-9s in the Salt Lake City police department and his attack on a grown man was just the tip of the iceberg. Apparently, the department has no problem siccing their dogs on harmless surrendering children as well.
After charges were announced against Pearce, SLC Police Chief Mike Brown said his office had reviewed 27 times where police dogs bit someone since 2018. They flagged 18 of those cases — 66% — as possibly criminal. Though Pearce has been the only officer charged, the officer in the horrifying incident below, may soon face the same fate.
In June of last year, several Salt Lake City police officers responded to a reported burglary in progress at a Burger King restaurant. When they arrived at the restaurant, it was filled with fire extinguisher smoke as officers yelled for the burglar(s) to come out or they would send in the dog.
“Come out or I’m going to send the dog,” K-9 handler D. Clawson yelled, according to his body camera footage. “You will get bit.”
Inside the restaurant was a 14-year-old boy. When police said they were going to release the dog, the boy quickly jumped up on the counter and put his hands in the air to surrender to police.
Despite the boy surrendering to police, Clawson did not call back his dog Jaeger. Instead, he forced the dog to “hit” and “get that guy” as the child stood on the counter with his hands in the air.
Jaeger didn’t see the boy, so Clawson made it easier for him. As the video shows, Clawson ripped the boy down from the counter top and fed him to his dog like a piece of meat.
The K-9 latched onto the small boy’s leg and tore it to shreds as Clawson shoved the screaming child’s face into the floor.
“Please,” the boy yelled. “I’m a 14-year-old.”
Despite body camera video showing the entirely unnecessary attack on the surrendering child, Clawson would write in his report that it was necessary to drag the kid off the counter and force his dog to bite him.
Though Clawson claimed this gruesome use of force was justified at the time of the incident, Salt Lake City’s Civilian Review Board ruled this week that it amounted to “excessive force.”
The report says officers are not trained to “command his/her K-9 to a bite a subject who appears to be surrendering, and hold the subject’s head down to the ground while the K-9 is biting.”
According to the Salt Lake Tribune, the review board also noted that after Jaeger let go of the boy, another officer told the dog “Good boy, Jaeger, good boy.” This portion of the body camera footage was not released by Salt Lake City police.
According to the Salt Lake Tribune, the board’s investigator Rick Rasmussen declined to comment on the report, which was briefly posted online Friday and has since been removed because the Salt Lake County District Attorney’s Office was still reviewing the case for criminal charges.
Thought the review board makes these recommendations, it is up to the police department to take action. Whether or not Clawson faced any discipline at all for forcing his dog to maul a child remains a mystery. Police have said its K-9 officers who are under review have been on administrative leave since September after Pearce was charged, but have not released any discipline records.
District Attorney Sim Gill said it’s “definitely in the realm of possibility” that more Salt Lake City officers could face criminal charges for ordering their police dogs to bite suspects, according to the Tribune.
“We are running across stuff that has given us concern,” Gill said. “We wouldn’t be viewing these cases if there wasn’t a basis of concern.”
Well, if anything is basis for concern it is the video below of a surrendering child being forced to the ground by a cop twice his size and then unnecessarily mauled by that cop’s dog.