Dallas Police Chief David O’Neal Brown defended the use of a bomb-carrying robot Monday to kill Micah Johnson, the gunman who killed five officers in Dallas last week, saying it “wasn’t an ethical dilemma.”
Chief David Brown said at a news conference that the 25-year-old suspect had already killed officers when he was cornered by police, negotiations had failed and officers could not get near him without putting themselves in danger.
“[Johnson] already killed us in a grave way, and officers were in surgery that didn’t make it,” Brown told reporters. “We knew from the negotiations that this was the suspect because he was asking us how many did he get and he was telling us how many he wanted to get.
The robot, strapped with a one-pound C4 plastic explosive, was used against Johnson when he refused to surrender despite being cornered by police.
On Sunday, Brown told CNN Sunday that without the use of deadly force “he would have hurt more officers.”
“I approved it and would do it again if presented with same circumstances,” Brown told CNN. “I appreciate critics but they are not on the ground. And their lives are not at risk.”
The unprecedented use of a bomb-carrying robot to kill an active shooter sparked ethical debate about the evolution of technology and the growing militarization of police forces.
Experts who spoke with the Associated Press said the decision to use the semi-autonomous devices to fight crime opens a new chapter.
“If lethally equipped robots can be used in this situation, when else can they be used?” says Elizabeth Joh, a University of California at Davis law professor told the AP.
“Extreme emergencies shouldn’t define the scope of more ordinary situations where police may want to use robots that are capable of harm.”
Police and the military have been using remote-controlled robots for decades for bomb disposal, in hostage standoffs and to disable improvised explosive devices on the battlefield.
Robotics expert Peter W. Singer told the AP that the decision by Dallas police to use a robot armed with explosive material to kill a suspect following the shootings appears to be a first for domestic police agencies.