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SWAT team’s Spot robot shot multiple times during standoff

Spot, a robot dog.
Boston Dynamics / Boston Dynamics

A Boston Dynamics’ Spot robot deployed by the Massachusetts State Police (MSP) was shot during a standoff in Cape Cod, Massachusetts.

It’s believed to be the first time that the robot helper has taken a bullet during active duty, and it highlights how the machine can help keep law enforcement out of harm’s way during challenging situations.

The incident occurred earlier this month as a SWAT team responded to a call about a suspected armed person who had barricaded himself inside a property. When the team arrived, the suspect fired upon officers, prompting them to deploy Spot — along with two PackBot 510 robots — to assist in locating the suspect inside the residence.

“Deployment of the remote-controlled robotic platforms allowed the team to safely gather crucial intelligence and provide situational awareness of the suspect and the home’s interior,” the MSP said in a Facebook post on Wednesday.

Spot, named Roscoe by the MSP, was sent to the basement by a remote operator and “was about to open another door when the male suspect suddenly appeared from a bedroom armed with a rifle.”

The suspect knocked Roscoe over and, with rifle in hand, began to flee. However, he didn’t realize that Spot had the ability to get back on its feet, a maneuver that Roscoe performed with ease before going after the suspect up the stairs (yes, it can handle stairs, too)

“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 robot suddenly lost communications.”

The MSP later discovered that Roscoe had been shot three times by the suspect, rendering the robot inoperable. SWAT operators then subdued the man using tear gas, at which point he surrendered without further incident.

“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,” the MSP said. “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 a real dog, and may have prevented a police officer or canine from being involved in an exchange of gunfire.”

Roscoe was later taken to Boston Dynamics, where the damage was assessed and the bullets removed. The company asked to keep Roscoe for research purposes and will hand the MSP a replacement Spot.

News of the incident came on the same day that Boston Dynamics shared a blog post on how Spot can be effectively deployed by first responders. The company said that since it became available for purchase in 2020 following years of development, Spot has been searching disaster sites for survivors, helping law enforcement officers resolve hostage situations, assisting with drug lab investigations, and conducting structural surveys after fires.

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