Mass. State Police robot dog shot during Cape Cod standoff


A Massachusetts State Police robot dog was shot during a standoff on Cape Cod this month, officials said, calling it an example of how the technology can make police work safer in dangerous situations.

It’s both the first time a Massachusetts State Police robot dog was shot while working and the first time that one of Boston Dynamics’ well-known Spot robots was shot while working, representatives told NBC10 Boston Wednesday.

The dog, known as Roscoe, was shot as a SWAT team dealt with a man barricaded in a home in the Hyannis section of Barnstable on March 6, police said. That standoff prompted local schools to be evacuated and took hours to resolve; it led to the arrest of 30-year-old Justin Moreira.

Moreira was barricaded inside a home on St. Francis Circle after a 911 call about a person holding someone else at knifepoint, police said at the time. The person escaped, but when officers arrived, at the home, Moreira allegedly opened fire on a SWAT vehicle and periodically shot near the officers who’d circled the home.

State police eventually decided to send in three robots, including Roscoe, to find where in the building Moreira was holed up. Roscoe cleared the top two floors of the building, then discovered him, holding a rifle, in the basement, police said.

He knocked the robot dog down, then started to walk up the stairs, but, when Roscoe righted itself and started following him up the stairs, he knocked the dog over again, then shot it three times. Its pilot lost communication with the dog.

Images shared by police showed the dog shot in its side and “neck.”

Moreira went on to take aim at another of the robots outside, though he missed, officials said. Police eventually took him into custody after they sent tear gas through the house.

“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.”

Moreira later appeared in court, where authorities said he fired more than 30 rounds during the course of the standoff. His attorney spoke briefly outside of court, calling this “a very serious case.”

The day after Roscoe was shot, police brought it to its manufacturer, Waltham-based Boston Dynamics, to have the bullets removed and assess the damage, police said. The company is hoping to keep the dog for research, and state police are getting a replacement.

A Boston Dynamics representative confirmed in an email that the state police dog “was the first Spot robot to be shot while ‘on duty.’

“More than that though, Spot keeps people out of harm’s way and aids first responders in assessing dangerous situations. We are proud that Spot safely supported the Massachusetts State Police Bomb Squad during the recent Barnstable incident involving an armed and barricaded suspect, and we are relieved that the only casualty that day was our robot. It’s a great example of how mobile robots like Spot can be used to save lives,” the email continued.

The company notes that its robots are not allowed to be weaponized.

The company also noted the incident in a blog post released this week about its Spot robots, noting that they have “proven extremely valuable in hostage situations, which are, of course, inherently volatile and present a real risk of imminent danger.”

The company said it’s a way to get officials a close look at such situations without putting humans at risk. Referring to Roscoe, they said simply that the “suspect fired at both responding officers and at Spot, partially disabling the robot. Officers were ultimately able to safely arrest the suspect.”


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