Los Angeles County Sheriff’s deputies used a robot to snatch a rifle away from a gunman who refused to hand over the weapon during a six-hour standoff on September 8.
The robot was initially expected to get a better look at the gunman, the Los Angeles Times reports, but police decided to use it to grab the weapon after they saw that it was lying next to the man’s feet.
Robots like this one, which cost $300,000 from the defense technology company Northrop Grumman, are typically used to safely dispose of bombs. But this one was repurposed not only to steal the man’s gun, but also to pull back a piece of the chain link fence surrounding him so police could more easily approach him.
Dallas police repurposed a similar bomb-disposal robot on the night of July 7 to kill a man suspected of shooting 12 police officers. The police detonated a bomb attached to the robot when it came close to the target so they wouldn’t have to place more officers at risk.
The same type of bomb-disposal robot, the Remotec Model F-5, was used in Cleveland to help police manage the Republican National Convention later in July. These robots are typically used by the military, but they have found their way into police departments.
What happened to the Dallas shooter is likely to become more common over the years as military robot manufacturers eye the potential revenues that could result from expanding into domestic law enforcement. Police want robots, and defense companies are more than willing to make some for them.
These sheriffs proved that robots can be useful in other ways. They didn’t have to kill the suspect, or use the robot to defuse a bomb — they simply took advantage of the tech available to them so they could end the standoff without violence. The Dallas shooter won’t be the last person killed by a police robot; perhaps this Los Angeles gunman won’t be the last one safely arrested because of one, either.