When a police robot killed suspect Micah Johnson in Dallas early Friday morning, it was likely an unprecedented event. But according to Steve Ijames, recently retired assistant chief of police in Springfield, Missouri, and a recognized expert in SWAT tactics, it was not a watershed moment portending a weaponized robotic future. The standoff after the police massacre at a Black Lives Matter protest was unique for a number of reasons, he says. And it was likely the only choice the police had.
The police department hasn’t elaborated on the device the bomb-defusing robot used or how exactly it killed the suspect, nor on the circumstances that led to the decision. But Ijames explains that a number of factors would have determined their novel use of the robot.
Although details about the incident are still scarce, Dallas Police Chief David Brown said this morning that his department had brought in the robot only after “negotiations broke down” with the suspect. “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,” Brown said.
Ijames interprets this to mean the Dallas police could not see Johnson. “I think you’ll learn as this plays out that this person was secreted in a location that they couldn’t see him,” Ijames says. “If they could see him, they just would have shot him with a rifle, no question. And looking at the physical location—the concrete and the chance of ricochet—they probably didn’t want a lot of bullets flying around. They were probably trying to limit their fire as best they could.”
Since the Dallas police chief mentioned an explosive device killed the suspect, Ijames says that his years of SWAT experience leads him …