August 25, 2020

Tactical Use of Robots in a Barricaded Suspect / High Risk Arrest / Search Warrant

There are many potential uses of robots in tactical law enforcement response.  In this particular tactical team activation, in a midwestern town in late November with freezing temperatures, several suspects who were selling illegal drugs were thought to be inside a house, and a shooting occurred nearby, and one suspect was observed who ran into the house. It was a known 'drug house'.  The occupants failed to respond to police requests to surrender and walk out, and so the situation developed into a barricaded suspect high threat incident.  Uncertain number of persons inside. The threat matrix used resulted in activation of the city's SWAT / tactical team and TEMS element and also negotiators and the bomb squad who brought their equipment including their robot. Warrants were obtained.

Over the course of several hours, police negotiators used loudspeakers to try to talk the suspects into walking out with their hands in the air, and surrender.  No success.  Decisions were made to deploy the robot to deliver a telephone to the house, with hopes that direct contact via telephone with negotiators would be more successful.  These photographs show the robot being utilized. The robot was escorted approximately 150 yards down an alley to the house, where tactical officers had surrounded and contained the inner perimeter.  A phone was delivered to the door of the house and one suspect stepped out to get the phone. Communication was effective.

After talking with negotiators, the suspects inside eventually surrendered and walked outside one at a time, hands raised in the air, and laid down on the ground, and subsequently, three suspects were taken into custody. The house was thoroughly searched by the tactical team, with close up support by the TEMS element (2 physicians, 1 nurse, 1 paramedic) who remained within a 30 second response time behind hard cover.  The site was secured, and detectives/investigators completed searching the building and nearby area.  Drugs and several pistols were found.  Successful prosecution of the suspects resulted.

(Photos by Dr. John Wipfler, MD, FACEP)

Pic#3-Taken from the robot control screen with 2-tactical officers.jpg

This photo was taken from the robot control screen. The 2-tactical officers are escorting the robot down the alley to the back of the house where the suspect(s) were located.

Pic#4-Photo from robot, suspect taken into custody.jpg

Photo taken from robot control screen, of one suspect, proned out, being taken into custody. Multiple other tactical officers are providing cover of windows and other high threat areas.

Pic#5-Suspects given direction thru robot and taken into custody.jpg

Suspects given direction thru robot and taken into custody.

Other suspects listened to police commands and slowly exit the building and were taken into custody, while other team members prepared to search the house slowly and carefully.  Video cameras and mirrors were used extensively. 

Pic#6-Mission complete personnel debriefing.jpg

Mission complete personnel debriefing

Mission completion, accounting for all personnel and gear, followed by a debriefing (later at police department),  and learning what went right and how to do it even better next time.  TEMS support was maintained until all teams were cleared from the callout site. No injuries or medical issues arose from this deployment.  Mission successful.  Effective use of tactical officers, robotic and telecommunications equipment, and good negotiations and effective leadership and tactics combined to resolve the crisis. 

John Wipfler, MD, FACEP

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