DALLAS (WJZ) — Dallas police are facing questions over the way they took out the suspect in Thursday’s ambush. Police sent a robot armed with explosives to kill the gunman.
Jessica Kartalija reports here in Maryland, officers are training with a robot similar to the one in Dallas.
Bomb squads say these robots can do pretty much anything a person can do. They have cameras, speakers and can investigate a suspicious package. Police have used a robot to deliver tear gas but police using one to kill was unprecedented.
Hours after Micah Johnson opened fire in downtown Dallas, he was cornered by police. He told investigators there were bombs around the city and he threatened to kill more officers. The Dallas mayor says there were no other options other than to send in a robot strapped with the explosive C-4.
“We ask him, `Do you want to come out safely or do you want to stay there? We’re going to take you down,’ and he chose the latter,” he said.
Last June, Dallas police used a similar bomb disposal robot to detonate pipe bombs inside a suspect’s van. Models like it can use explosives, a water cannon or high-powered air to disrupt suspicious devices.
Montgomery County Fire and Rescue Department operates one of several bomb squads in the Washington DC region.
“It can be repaired; it can be replaced. You can’t replace a highly trained and experienced member of the squad,” said Chief Scott Goldstein.
But critics say robots like these were designed for military combat.
“It raises a lot of concern about the increased weaponization of robots that the police use,” said Peter Asaro.
Asaro is with the International Committee for Robot Arms Control.
“Once police departments have these kinds of weapons in their arsenal, it provides the opportunity to use them in a lot of different kinds of scenarios,” said Asaro.
“I thought it was ingenious,” said Dan Montgomery.
Montgomery, a 54-year veteran police chief compares the Dallas police department’s use of the robot to a high-tech version of sniper fire.
“If you’ve got a robot that has C-4 explosives, someone’s gotta detonate that so it’s the same as pulling the trigger,” Montgomery said.
The robots are remotely controlled by a person, do not come armed and weren’t designed to deliver explosives.
Each robot costs about $60,000.