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To end the Dallas shooting spree, police used a robot to kill for the first time

Bringing bloody resolution to a standoff with the suspected shooter in Thursday’s horrific sniper attack on police at a Black Lives Matter protest, Dallas Police cornered and killed the suspect in a parking garage with an explosive delivered by a bomb-disposal robot. The AP quotes robotics expert Peter W. Singer at the New America Foundation as saying that, to his knowledge, this is the first instance in the United States of police killing someone with a robot.

In a statement given on Friday, Police Chief David Brown said that the robot was deployed after several hours of failed negotiations and an exchange of fire at the El Centro College parking structure where the suspect was found. “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,” said Brown. “Other options would have exposed our officers to great danger. The suspect is deceased as a result of detonating the bomb.”

Related: How do we teach robots right from wrong? Soon the problem won’t be hypothetical

The suspect has been identified as 25-year-old Micah Johnson, a former Army reservist and Dallas-area resident with no criminal record, according to the Los Angles Times. No other suspects have been publicly identified, but authorities have suggested that two to four shooters were involved in the attack, which killed five police officers and injured seven more. Brown said that during negotiations with the police, Johnson apparently said explicitly that he was motivated by the recent police killings in Minnesota and Louisiana, and wanted to target police officers in retribution, “especially white officers.”

Singer confirmed on Twitter that this is indeed the first reported use of lethal robots by American police, although similar tactics have been deployed in Iraq by the United States military.

Bomb-disposal robots have become an integral tool for American police and military over the last several years, allowing for personnel to resolve many deadly situations without putting additional lives at risk. Many such robots are equipped with small explosives to pre-emptively detonate larger bombs, but it is not clear whether the explosive used in this case was one of those.

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