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Salt Lake City’s police chief may testify in dog bite trial, judge rules

Posted at 4:42 PM, Jan 05, 2024
and last updated 2024-01-05 20:10:02-05

SALT LAKE CITY — A judge says Salt Lake City Police Chief Mike Brown may be called to testify at the assault trial for one of his officers — a K-9 handler who sicced a dog on a man showing his hands and kneeling to the ground.

Salt Lake City’s municipal government had been fighting a subpoena for Brown issued by prosecutors, who want the chief to testify about his department’s policies. Jury selection for the defendant, Nickolas Pearce, who has pleaded not guilty, is scheduled for Jan. 29 in state court.

Among Salt Lake City’s arguments was that Brown is too busy to testify, and that the police department has not completed its internal investigation into Pearce. He remains employed as a Salt Lake City officer.

Pearce’s defense team, too, objected to Brown testifying, pointing out he wasn’t present when Pearce ordered his dog to bite.

Judge William Kendall overruled those objections. In a written order dated Dec. 23, Kendall said Brown is familiar with police department policies. Kendall also pointed out that Brown had time in September 2020 to hold a press conference about the video of Pearce’s dog biting the man.

“If Chief Brown had the time to hold that press conference, then Chief Brown has the time to testify in this case if he is called to do so,” Kendall wrote.

Pearce is charged with one count of aggravated assault. He faces up to 15 years in prison if convicted. He has pleaded not guilty.

Prosecutors have argued Pearce exceeded the reasonable use of force when he ordered his dog, Tuco, to attack Jeffrey Ryans in Ryans’ backyard on April 24, 2020.

Ryans had his hands up on and one knee already on the ground when Pearce is heard on video order his K-9, Tuco, to “hit.” Ryans is then heard screaming.

Ryans testified in 2022 that he has had multiple surgeries and has undergone physical therapy and still had no feeling between his shin and his ankle.