Police robot kills Dallas shooting suspect

Occurred: July 2016

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The decision by Dallas police to kill a shooting suspect with an explosive device attached to a military surplus bomb-disposal robot has prompted questions about the nature and ethics of police actions involving robots.

The suspect, Micah Xavier Johnson, had opened fire on police officers during a Black Lives Matter protest in downtown Dallas in July 2016, killing five officers and wounding seven. Dallas Mayor Mike Rawlings said '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.'

Journalist Asher Wolf discovered that the robot used was most likely a MARCbot-IV robot purchased through the US military's 1033 program. Over 200 law enforcement agencies were thought to use robots purchased through the 1033 program, including the Dallas Police Department. 

It was the first known time that a robot had been used to intentionally kill a human in the US. 

In February 2021, images of an automated New York Police Department (NYPD) 'digidog' equipped with surveillance cameras responding to a hostage situation drew a backlash from the local community, rights activists, and politicians. 

Operator: Dallas Police Department
Developer: Exponent Inc

Country: USA

Sector: Govt - police

Purpose: Bomb disposal

Technology: Robotics
Issue: Ethics


Page info
Type: Incident
Published: March 2023