Dallas police used bomb robot to kill shooting suspect
Police in Dallas used a bomb disposal robot to kill a suspect after last night’s deadly shooting during a protest. In a press conference, Dallas police chief David Brown said that the robot was deployed after negotiations with the suspect failed. "We saw no other option but to use our bomb robot and place a device on its extension for it to detonate where the suspect was," said Brown. "Other options would have exposed our officers to great danger. The suspect is deceased as a result of detonating the bomb."
It’s not entirely clear what the "device" in question was, although it may have been one of the small explosives that are normally used to safely detonate larger bombs. A previous statement, from Dallas’ mayor, said only that the suspect had died after police used explosives to "blast him out."
Police have used remote-controlled bomb disposal robots for other purposes; San Jose police talked a man out of suicide last year after delivering a phone and pizza to him via one. But this is the first known case where a department has described using one as a weapon, defense technology expert Peter Singer posted on Twitter, although he notes it's been used this way informally by US troops and insurgents. Unlike with the "killer robots" that have ethicists most worried, any decisions in Dallas were made clearly by humans — it’s much more like an advanced tool used in an unexpected way than anything artificially intelligent or designed for murder. Still, beyond the unmanned drones used in bombing strikes, it’s one of the first known times that a robot has been intentionally used to kill a human outside the battlefield.
HOW & WHY DID @DallasPD have a bomb?— liza sabater (@blogdiva) July 8, 2016
HOW & WHY DID @DallasPD have a bomb?
HOW & WHY DID @DallasPD have a bomb? #DallasPoliceShooting
Dallas Police Used Bomb-Armed Robot To Kill Active Shooter
Police used a bomb-defusal robot armed with an explosive to kill an active shooter taking part in a coordinated attack that left five police officers dead in Dallas, Texas on Friday.
Dallas Police Chief David Brown explained the situation in a press conference after the fact, saying:
We cornered one suspect and we tried to negotiate for several hours. Negotiations broke down. We had an exchange of fire with the subject. We saw no other option but to use our bomb robot and place a device on its extension for it to detonate where the suspect was.
It's unclear what the "device" was, but it is possible that it could have been a small charge intended for use in controlled detonations of larger bombs.
This appears to be the known first instance of United States police using a robot to attack and kill a suspect, though experts say similar tactics have been used in military situations. In both cases, the robot in question was designed for bomb defusal, but was repurposed for detonation.
Yes, this is 1st use of robot in this way in policing. Marcbot has been ad hoc used this way by troops in Iraq. https://t.co/FfrsgLS2x1— Peter W. Singer (@peterwsinger) July 8, 2016
Bomb defusal robots have previously been used for unorthodox but non-lethal purposes. AsVice reported in May of 2015:
In one case, the robot was used to reach in a suicidal man's bedroom window and pull a blanket off of him because the SWAT team was wondering whether he had a gun or not. (Turns out he didn't.)...The robots, originally designed for use as bomb-disposal tools, are also becoming increasingly weaponized. Northrop Grumman's Remotec ANDROS F6 robot, for example, can be outfitted with an X-ray to look for explosive material, or a "disruptor" to safely detonate bombs. But it can also be fitted with a pepper-spray dispenser, a tear-gas launcher, and even a shotgun.
But while the practice of repurposing bomb defusal robots may not be new, this certainly seems to be the most extreme domestic example so far and raises all kinds of questions about their use going forward.