Salt Lake City Police Officer Nickolas Pearce has been slapped with his second aggravated assault charge in the past year for his abusive use of his K9 partner. Last year he was arrested for setting his dog Tuco on an unarmed black man who had his hands in the air and was not resisting. This past week prosecutors amended his charges to include a second count of aggravated assault for a 2019 attack on an unarmed woman during a traffic stop. Pearce faces up to 15 years in prison.
Jeffrey Ryans was attacked by SLCPD K9 Officer Tuco on the orders of Officer Pearce in April of 2020. Body camera footage showed that Ryans had his hands in the air and was not resisting. He subsequently filed a lawsuit which led to prosecutors charging Pearce . Salt Lake County District Attorney Sim Gill rarely charges officers for using excessive force and has never gotten a conviction, so expect his efforts in prosecuting Pearce to be half-assed (https://www.deseret.com/utah/2020/9/18/21444061/salt-lake-police-officer-faces-rare-criminal-charge-but-is-a-conviction-likely).
Nellieana Mafileo Langi was pulled over by Officer Pearce in November of 2019. She extended her arms out the window of her vehicle and Officer Pearce lifted Tuco up so that he could bite her. She did not resist or make any threats according to prosecutors. She suffered serious injuries.
Despite these charges, the Salt Lake City Police Association continues to support Officer Pearce. The posted a press release on Facebook (https://www.facebook.com/SaltLakePoliceAssociation/posts/4608196069201724) that says:
"The Police Association and its Members continue to have the utmost and fiercest support for all of our officers and members currently being scrutinized by DA Sim Gill's office. It is our understanding the DA's Office currently has 2 full-time prosecutors and 2 full-time paralegals assigned to work solely on the SLCPD K9 incidents. Instead of using these employees to investigate and prosecute criminal cases, Sim Gill has 4 of his staff members investigating one of the most decorated K9 units in the state of Utah... A year of time wasted by the DA led to only two unjustified charges. This seems to be a gross misappropriation of taxpayer dollars - we believe would be better spent prosecuting criminals posing the greatest threat to our city... We will continue to support them during this ridiculous witch hunt led by Sim Gill."
According to public records, Nickolas John Pearce is a 39 year old resident of Herriman, Utah. He has no prior criminal history and the voter registration record we found did not list his party affiliation. He has been with the SLCPD for 14 years. We suspect that he no longer has control over Tuco because usually police dogs belong to police departments, but sometimes they are gifted to their handlers. However, in cases of misconduct the dogs are usually assigned to new handlers. That is why we are not pasting Pearce's address into the body of this article because absent reports from the media that he has Tuco at his home we do not feel the need to warn the public about a good dog with a bad owner at that location.
Despite his arrests getting a lot of publicity we have been unable to locate a picture of Pearce that shows his face anywhere on the internet. All we could find was body cam footage of him wearing a mask. If you have a picture of him please contact us.
You can learn more about both of these incidents in the video below.
UPDATE: This article has been updated to include a copy of the Police Civilian Review Board's report on the Jeffrey Ryan attack. Look for the PDF icon above the map above the article next to the text "Civilian Review Board Report." That report contains the names of other officers involved that could have intervened to stop Pearce and failed to do so. Those officers are Kevin Jewkes and Cody Orgill. The report also faulted an unnamed lieutenant for failing to report this incident up the chain of command. That lieutenant has since retired.