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Robotic police dog shot multiple times, helped avoid bloodshed

The robot dog was part of the Massachusetts State Police Bomb Squad.
Robotic police dog shot multiple times, helped avoid bloodshed
Posted at 6:23 AM, Mar 28, 2024

Roscoe, a robotic dog, is being thanked by state police in Massachusetts for helping avert a tragedy involving a person barricaded in a home.

The robot dog was part of the Massachusetts State Police Bomb Squad and deployed on March 6 in a Barnstable house after police were fired upon. Police sent in two other robots often used for bomb disposal into the house to find the suspect along with the robotic dog.

Controlled remotely by state troopers, it first checked the two main floors before walking into the basement and finding someone. The person, armed with a rifle, twice knocked over Roscoe before shooting it three times and disabling its communication.

The person then shot at one of the other robots and an outdoor swimming pool before police deployed tear gas and arrested them.

"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," state police said in a statement. "In addition to providing critically important room clearance and situational awareness capabilities, the insertion of Roscoe 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."

Katie Fitzsimons, an assistant professor at Penn state University in the mechanical engineering department, notes that this type of technology is very new. 

"I think that Boston Dynamics first started coming out with these sort of commercially really robust robots that can actually navigate these spaces only a few years ago," she said.

The integration of technology in dangerous situations is something Fitzsimons expects to see more.

“This is one of the things that people have said is a justification for using robots is that we can put them into the three D’s - dirty, dangerous and dull jobs people generally don't want to do," she said.

Boston Dynamics, the company that made the robotic dog known as a SPOT robot, said in a statement that it was the first time one of them had been shot.

"We are relieved that the only casualty that day was our robot," the company said.

The Massachusetts State Police said this could've prevented an officer or police dog from being shot.

"I think they have really good potential to really reduce risks in those scenarios because they're not only removing the person from this potentially dangerous situation, but they’re also providing more information at the same time," Fitzsimons said.

Roscoe was sent to Boston Dynamics to remove the bullets and undergo a damage assessment. It will remain with the company and a new unit will be sent to state police.

The Associated Press contributed to this report.

@scrippsnews A robotic dog named Roscoe was shot in a Massachusetts standoff. Roscoe had been sent in place of an officer or police dog. The company that made the robotic dog said in a statement that this was the first time one of the robots was shot. #techtok #robotics #roboticdog ♬ original sound - Scripps News

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