Dallas PD Says Robot Was Used to Kill Suspect Only After Negotiations Failed

The robot was sent in only after negotiations failed, police say.

ByABC News
July 9, 2016, 6:57 PM
FBI investigators look over the crime scene in Dallas, July 8, 2016, following a Thursday night shooting incident that killed five police officers.
FBI investigators look over the crime scene in Dallas, July 8, 2016, following a Thursday night shooting incident that killed five police officers.
Carlo Allegri/Reuters

— -- Dallas police said tonight that a bomb-carrying robot was deployed to kill a suspect in the shooting of numerous police officers only after negotiations with the man failed.

The suspect, Micah Xavier Johnson, had barricaded himself in a building during a standoff with cops. Law enforcement experts say it appears to be the first the tactic was employed.

In a brief statement released today, the Dallas Police Department said the robot used was a Remotec Model F-5, with a claw and arm extension with an explosive device of C4 plus "Det" cord. The approximate weight of the total charge was one pound, the statement said.

"When all attempts to negotiate with the suspect, Micah Johnson, failed under the exchange of gunfire, the Department utilized the mechanical tactical robot, as a last resort, to deliver an explosion device to save the lives of officers and citizens," the statement said.

The 25-year-old suspect was killed after he told hostage negotiators that he was angry about recent shootings of black men by police and that he wanted to kill white people, especially police officers.

Police spent hours negotiating with Johnson, who indicated there were possible explosives inside the building, before using a police robot to detonate an explosive, killing him.

"We saw no other option but to use our bomb robot," said Dallas Police Chief David Brown Friday morning. "Other options would have exposed the officers to grave danger."

Johnson had "plenty of options to give himself up peacefully," said Dallas Mayor Mike Rawlings Friday afternoon. "He had a choice to come out and we would not harm him, or stay in and we would. He picked the latter."

The robot used is manned by a trained police officer, David Klinger, professor of Criminology and Criminal Justice at the University of Missouri-St. Louis,said. The device contains an arm that's essentially an extension handle, which police can use to carry anything from a bomb, camera, encrypted phone, distraction devices or even food to engage with the suspect.

For the past five years, one particular police robot manufacturer by RoboteX has been passed around at police special tactics conferences, said Rob McCarthy, the former senior supervisor and assistant commander of the LAPD SWAT team. They are small track vehicles, about 18 inches tall and a foot wide, weigh about 12 pounds and can go up to down stairs.

The RoboteX model is being used in more than 800 police departments all over the country, said the company's president, Eric Ivers. McCarthy described the Dallas SWAT team as having "very progressive training."

The RoboteX devices cost anywhere from $20,000 to $70,000, depending on how they're equipped, Ivers said. RoboteX is considered a lower-priced model, her added, with higher-end versions costing upwards in the hundreds of thousands.

Klinger, McCarthy and Ivers all said this is the first instance they're aware of where a police robot was used to kill a suspect. The method has been practiced but never actually implemented on the field, a source with the ATF told ABC News. Before the Dallas ambush, they were used predominantly to disrupt improvised or explosive devices, or IEDs, Ivers said.

Police typically train with the devices for two full weeks initially, with the individual departments providing continual training, Ivers said. RoboteX offers consultations to officers when necessary.