Dallas Police Chief Defends Use Of Robot To Kill Suspect

Dallas Police Robot

Dallas Police Chief David Brown is defending his decision to use a robot to kill Micah Xavier Johnson, who is suspected in the shooting deaths of five police officers and the injury of nine others during a protest to end police violence. Although Brown said he would “do it again” under similar circumstances, his decision has become a point of heated controversy.

In the wake of two separate officer-involved shootings, thousands of protesters began gathering in Belo Garden Park in Dallas, Texas at approximately 7:00 p.m. on Thursday, July 7.

Although the demonstration was initially peaceful, with community leaders and police officers vowing to work together to end racially charged violence, authorities reported shots were fired near the intersection of Griffin and San Jacinto streets just before 9:00 p.m.

Over the next six hours, two civilians and 12 Dallas police officers were shot by a suspect described as a “sniper.” Five of the police officers were later pronounced dead.

At approximately 11:10 p.m., authorities confirmed shots were fired, and a suspect was cornered in an El Centro parking garage. An hour later, law enforcement officials announced they were attempting to negotiate with the unnamed suspect.

Just after 3:00 a.m. on July 8, authorities confirmed the suspect, who was later identified as 25-year-old Michah Xavier Johnson, was killed by a remote-controlled robot outfitted with an explosive device.

WFAA reports, several others were determined to be persons of interest in the hours leading up to Johnson’s death. However, authorities later confirmed he is the sole suspect in the shootings.

During a Friday news conference, Dallas Police Chief David Brown explained his decision to deploy the controversial robot.

“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… Other options would have exposed our officers to grave danger… We have confirmed that he’s… deceased because of the detonation of the bomb.”

Legal advisor Ed Obayashi, who is an attorney and a police officer, said the Dallas Police Department was forced to use the robot because the suspect claimed he planted explosives throughout the parking garage. Johnson also reportedly expressed plans to kill more people, including police officers.

Although Dallas Police Chief David Brown has strongly defended his decision, the use of robots to kill suspects has become a point of heated debate.

Law enforcement agencies and military units customarily use robots to safely dismantle suspected explosives. However, the Dallas Police Department is the first law enforcement agency to use a robot to kill a suspect.

Interestingly, William Cohen, who helped design the robot, explained it “was built to save lives instead of ending them.” In an interview with StarTribune, Cohen said he is uncomfortable with the fact that the robot was used as a weapon.

“It opens a whole new set of questions of how to deal with these kinds of situations… Where are the police going to draw the line when trying to decide between continuing to negotiate and doing something like this?”

University of California at Davis law professor Elizabeth Joh echoed Cohen’s concerns.

“If lethally equipped robots can be used in this situation, when else can they be used?… Extreme emergencies shouldn’t define the scope of more ordinary situations where police may want to use robots that are capable of harm.”

Although the Dallas Police Department’s choice to use the robot as a weapon is likely to remain controversial, the decision is being credited with saving lives. Although opponents have not argued that fact, they are unsure whether local law enforcement agencies should have the freedom to use remote-control explosive devices at will.

[Image via tsuneomp/Shutterstock]