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‘Robot dog’ takes bullets for police on Cape Cod, Massachusetts

A Boston Dynamics Spot unit, which the Massachusetts State Police named “Roscoe,” as seen after taking three bullets during a Cape Cod barricade situation. (Massachusetts State Police/TNS)

A robot dog took bullets during a tense, armed barricade situation on Cape Cod earlier this month, and police say the droid’s deployment helped to prevent injuries to human officers.

“The incident provided a stark example of the benefits of mobile platforms capable of opening doors and ascending stairs in tactical missions involving armed suspects,” Massachusetts State Police spokesman Dave Procopio said in a statement.

“In addition to providing critically important room clearance and situational awareness capabilities, the insertion of (the robot) into the suspect residence prevented the need, at that stage of response, from inserting human operators, and may have prevented a police officer from being involved in an exchange of gunfire,” Procopio continued.

On March 6, police released a robot designed and manufactured by Boston Dynamics into a Francis Circle residence in Barnstable to assist a Cape Cod SWAT team during a barricade situation in which the person of interest was armed with a rifle.

The Spot unit, so named by its manufacturer because of its robotic dog-like appearance owing to size and its four-legged design, that police named “Roscoe” was released to the basement, where it cleared a closet before it was surprised by the man with the gun who came out of a bedroom, according to Massachusetts State Police.

The man knocked Roscoe over and then walked up the stairs. The officer remotely controlling Roscoe was able to right the robot and then follow the target up the stairs.

“When the suspect realized, with apparent surprise, that Roscoe was behind him on the stairs, he again knocked the robot over and then raised his rifle in Roscoe’s direction,” the MSP wrote in a statement. “The robot suddenly lost communications.”

Police would later learn that Roscoe had taken three bullets, disabling it.

The man then turned his attention to the two PacBot 510 robots police had also released into the home. The robots produced by Virginia-based Teledyne FLIR LLC is a rubber-tracked robot with a central arm that the company describes as specializing in “bomb disposal, surveillance and reconnaissance” as well as detecting chemical, biological, radiological, and nuclear threats and handling hazardous materials.

As the man was distracted by those two robots, according to the MSP, police were able to release tear gas into the home. The man would soon surrender.

Trooper John Ragosa, the MSP bomb squad member who was controlling Roscoe, took him to Boston Dynamics to have the damage assessed. The company, the MSP says, has expressed interest in keeping the shot-up unit for study. Procopio said the MSP will be replacing their Spot unit.


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