Legal Experts Raise Alarm over Shocking Use of ‘Killer Robot’ in Dallas

Written by on July 10, 2016 in Agencies & Systems, Corruption, Government, Policies with 91 Comments
Dallas police officers respond to the ambush attack on July 7, 2016. (Photo: AP)

Dallas police officers respond to the ambush attack on July 7, 2016. (Photo: AP)

By Nadia Prupis | Common Dreams

As news emerges that police officers in Dallas, Texas used an armed robot to kill the suspected shooter in Thursday night's ambush, experts are warning that it represents a sea change in police militarization that only heightens risks to human and constitutional rights.

Dallas Police Chief David Brown said Friday morning during a press conference that police “saw no other option but to use our bomb robot and place a device on its extension for it to detonate” where the suspect had taken refuge in a parking garage as police tried to negotiate with him, adding that he was “deceased as a result of detonating the bomb.”

The suspect, identified as Micah Xavier Johnson, was killed around 2:30am Friday morning after an hours-long standoff with police. The shootings killed five officers and left more than a dozen people injured. Johnson reportedly confirmed that he had acted alone and was not affiliated with any group.

Many noted that this appears to be the first time that domestic police have used a lethal robot to kill a suspect.

According to Marjorie Cohn, Professor Emerita at the Thomas Jefferson School of Law and editor and contributor to Drones and Targeted Killings: Legal, Moral, and Geopolitical Issues, it's a sign that U.S. law enforcement is continuing to go in “the wrong direction.”

“The fact that the police have a weapon like this, and other weapons like drones and tanks, is an example of the militarization of the police and law enforcement—and goes in the wrong direction,” Cohn told Common Dreams. “We should see the police using humane techniques, interacting on a more humane level with the community, and although certainly the police officers did not deserve to die, this is an indication of something much deeper in the society, and that's the racism that permeates the police departments across the country. It's a real tragedy.”

“Due process is not just enshrined in our constitution, it's also enshrined in the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights.” —Marjorie Cohn, Thomas Jefferson School of Law

Seth Stoughton, a former police officer and assistant professor of law at the University of South Carolina, told The Atlantic on Friday, “This is sort of a new horizon for police technology. Robots have been around for a while, but using them to deliver lethal force raises some new issues.”

As security expert and University of Pennsylvania professor Matt Blaze noted on Twitter on Friday, numerous safety concerns about the robot's protocols—for example, how easily it might be hacked—remain unaddressed.

“How was the control link to the Dallas bomb robot secured? Stakes go *way* up when something like this is repurposed as a weapon,” he wrote.

As Popular Science tech editor David Gershgorn also explained:

Repurposing a robot that was created to prevent death by explosion clearly contrasts with the way these machines are normally used. Bomb disposal robots are routinely used to minimize the potential of harm to officers and civilians when disarming or clearing potential explosives from an area. They are often equipped with their own explosive charges and other tools, not to kill, but detonate other potential bombs in the area.

Questions also arose regarding the necessity of the suspect's killing after he reportedly told police during negotiations that there were “bombs all over” downtown Dallas.

As Cohn noted, officers could have determined where those devices were located, “if in fact there are bombs,” had they left the suspect alive. Moreover, she said, killing him violated his constitutional right to due process.

“Police cannot use deadly force unless there's an imminent threat of death or great bodily injury to them or other people. If the suspect was holed up in a parking garage and there was nobody in immediate danger from him, the police could have waited him out. They should have arrested him and brought him to trial,” Cohn said. “Due process is not just enshrined in our constitution, it's also enshrined in the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights, which the U.S. has ratified, making it part of U.S. law.”

Likewise, Stoughton told The Atlantic, “Policing has a different mission [than the military]: protecting the populace. That core mission, as difficult as it is to explains sometimes, includes protecting some people who do some bad things. It includes not using lethal force when it's possible to not.”

Many noted the connection between potentially the first use of an armed robot in domestic policing and the deployment of such tools in active war zones. Defense technology expert Peter W. Singer wrote on Twitter, “this is 1st use of robot in this way in policing. Marcbot has been ad hoc used this way by troops in Iraq.”

Cohn said, “The same way that the Obama administration uses unmanned drones in other countries to kill people instead of arresting them and bringing them to trial, we see a similar situation here….As the technology develops, we're going to see the increasing use of military weapons in the hands of the police, which is going to inflame and exacerbate a very volatile situation.”

“The same way that the Obama administration uses unmanned drones in other countries, we see a similar situation here.” —Marjorie Cohn, Thomas Jefferson School of Law

“We can see that many of the weapons that are being used by the military are in the hands of the police,” she added. “This is a very volatile situation, very dangerous situation, and is only going to make the tensions worse and kill people and violate constitutional rights.”

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  1. It’s not just the experts who are alarmed.

  2.' Glenn Moss says:

    What’s the difference between shooting an armed suspect that refused to comply and using a drone? If they are armed and pose a threat then eliminate the threat.

  3.' Tom Gerencir says:

    If a sniper is shooting innocent people or police officers ,YES blow his damn head off, what the hell is with you bleeding hearts worried about the killers rights and we’ll being. The criminal has no rights when he fires the first shot.

    • I notice you didn’t call cops innocent, that much I agree with.

    • seems it could also just be lack of strategic understanding, laziness or fear on the cops part. Drone easier. Constitutional rights are so passé anyway.

    • But don’t you want to know whose payroll the sniper is on? What drugs he was on? What group he is associated with? What country he came from? Who assisted him? better to have live POW’s. To get to the root of the problem…

    • So does this mean that ANYONE who fires the first shot has no rights? Not a civilian, cop, BLM, FBI, etc?

    • This US civil war is going to be next level. Hope everyone is locked & loaded. Once the 1st shot is fired that person loses all rights & whoever shoots at him loses his rights until eventually only one man stands. God I love this country. ??

    • the second amendment is not written for hunting purposes. It is written to protect citizens from a corruption & tyranny from a thieving government( 19 trillion in debt, FYI) Choose your team & positioning wisely, what you are willing to die for…what you are willing to pay for & who you are willing to pay. The elite don’t care about cops on the frontline, dog soldiers with dog tags. They do the higher ups dirty work. Those guys don’t get dirty let alone bloody.

    • You say Choose your team & positioning wisely, what you are willing to die for.. That is becoming more and more urgent to do To die so Monsanto can control the world food supply, or die so that we have less homeless and poverty while having more liberty and be the only ones in charge of our bodies not having to be force into vaccinations etc.

    •' Tom Gerencir says:

      Tiffany D. Yochum go away you dumb bitch making all your bullshit statements ,dumbass

    •' Tom Gerencir says:

      A dumb bitch making a mountain out of a mole hill, stupid ass broad.


    • André Tanné When is the last time you read anything? It must be make shit up day and tin hat day…… Monsanto feeds more people in the world than any single farmer…. when you are starving all you want is something to eat…. by the way even Phil Nye changed his mind on GMO when he actually took the time to learn about it… and you can do whatever you want to your body but you live in a society which is more important that you…. I don’t need your un-vaccinated body near my family.

    •' Tom Gerencir says:

      Thanks Sue Hudson Sandelli,,,,,,,

    •' Malia Luchey says:

      @ Tom Gerencir what you don’t realize is… They experiment on us first to see if it works, effective, and what they can tweak. Let’s see what you say when they use it on the Don’t Tread on me groups, and Patriot groups after they have worked out the kinks in the inner city. Peace and blessings

    •' Tom Gerencir says:

      There is no experiment on anyone chicago had over 450 shootings in the month of June that my dear Malia Luchey is NO experiment, that is savagery in the least. That is not raiseing Your kids to be good people ,but I know it’s someone else’s fault, it always is. Peace and as you say Blessings.

  4. I was beginning to wonder if the world was keeping quiet about a robot. I mean, how come we haven’t seen what this robot looks like anyways? Or are we already in the first season of iRobot?

  5.' Erik Albert says:

    Experts used their expertise to squirt out a robot that kills expert snipers, and other armed talking apes. When all your experts concentrate on the concept of killing and weaponry, as opposed to livingry, simply means you are comfortably stuck in your dualistic nature. Until you blast fucking sense into each other, instead of blasting the fucking hell out of each other, I can give you some expert advice: ignore unsuitables absolutely, completely, and utterly.

    • Easy to say until they are breaking into your house & trying to rape & kill you…just ignore the drone, war, killers…send them good vibes?!?

    •' Erik Albert says:

      Absolutely everybody is responsable for their own actions. You loose authority over yourself as soon as you violate the private space of somebody else. In that case, erradicating unsuitables is only natural.

  6. easy to eliminate patsies that way, no one will know who paid him, who drugged him, who armed him, etc. it’s bad investigative work for sure. And inhumane. Desensitizing humans to killing machines will make it much easier to control them.

  7.' Tony Harding says:

    Dead men cannot defend themselves …Osama bin laden .is a prime example …murder us murder weather it’s done by me or the government

  8. We are just another experiment on how best to kill blk folk..

  9.' Ken Wright says:

    He was a military man, with military training, using military weapons and tactics; just sayin’.

  10. the implications of its uses are enormous…cause obviously this tech will be used by bad guys also and bad guys in the goverment too

  11. They would’ve killed him anyway. He waived his due process when he started shooting at cops.

  12.' Billy Behan says:

    He was always going to die. The police/Army ofAmerica.

  13.' Bill Marra says:

    He gave up his constitutional rights when he pulled that trigger and MURDERED 5 people. You can take your pansie assed cry baby legal Expert bullshit down the road IDIOT! Questions and statements like this ARE THE PROBLEM!!!!!!!

  14. We would have to be insane to approve that. But observe and you will see that law enforcement system is preparing to abuse the populations, not only in USA bur in all the western civilization. This is why the want gun control, since these system risk to become our worst enemies we should be ready to defend our lives.

  15. Crimeocracy-made in U.S.A.

  16. Due process? OK, make a robot that is also a judge too.

  17. Anything to down the sniper….anything! IMHO

  18. Experts at what?! Whining?

  19. Yes any means to protect innocent ppl and serve justice.
    3 ppl killed Friday night in S.B. 1 a 9 yrs old kid. Shot in back of head. Please justify how ethical that is?
    Criminals don’t care how they murder, we shouldn’t take their feelings into consideration.

  20.' Karen Benson says:

    They only use this because he was killing police officers if it was any ordinary person they wouldn’t have used this as far as his rights if you’re killing somebody without due cause then you don’t have anymore rights

  21. NO THEY drop bombs on people from planes and innocent people get killed.So if you want to hurt people. I vote use it

  22.' Mary Davis says:

    Um, isn’t that kinda like using drones in war zones?

  23.' Ann Taylor says:

    Anyone that says this man had no rights does not understand the Constitution or understands it but disagrees. You’re entitled to your opinions, but remember your opinions do not equal facts. This is a dangerous precedent for every American.

  24. Yes I agree. This man killed and shot many and he wasn’t going to surrender or be taken alive. So yes, he had to be stopped.

  25.' Jimmy Mills says:

    the robot was used to try to disarm a ied that the man had made. It blew up killing the individual in the blast. Please print the facts and quit the hate speech.

  26.' Tom Ormsby says:

    Legal experts you say. Give us names of your legal experts. Once we know who these claimed legal experts are, if you really have a list, we can then give them a weapon and put them on the front line.


  28. Shaine Laflamme Medvid

  29.' John Higgins says:

    I could care less how you do it as long as its done, they gave him every opportunity to give up, he made his choice.

  30. The risk of human life is the majority of governments.

  31.' Tom Stowe says:

    If the suspect will not give up, and continues to threaten people’s lives; then due process is using whatever tacit that brings it to an end before anymore loss of life.

  32.' Tim Wells says:

    Maybe it will save lives as they wont be so quick to pull the trigger?(as their lives won’t be in immediate danger)

  33. Under these circumstances,the cops are justified..

  34. Why is it that these “Legal experts” are always there to defend the criminal and do jack shit for the victims?

  35.' Steel Burner says:

    They goin to try to ban the robot next

  36.' Robert Bush says:

    If you declare war on LEO’s or any civilized man/woman or child. The method of which we return war on you is up to us. Play stupid games, win stupid prizes.

  37.' JHB says:

    I’m sorry, but as far as I’m concerndd, he gave up his “right to due process the moment he shot into a crowd hitting 12 and killing 5. How many more do you think should have risked their lives to try to take him alive so he could be put on trial? There comes a point when the only course of action is to prevent more injury and death, and if that meant using a bomb, so be it. This guy made a point of telling everyone he hated whites, and especially white ckps. He would not have stopped shooting until he was stopped, and a decision was made to do so without risk of more fatalities to police. Your ass wa z n’t being shot at and the “Monday morning quarterback in and critiques by those who have never faced this kind of threat is bull.

  38. Them Legal Experts better go back to School. or find a new profession.

  39. He said he wanted to kill more cops. So why should the send cops in to get shot at.

  40. Pretty soon we won’t need police just autonomous kill bots cleaning out all the humans with outstanding debts.

  41. I say, you lose your rights when you commit a crime…isn’t that what going to jail does. If you don’t put your weapon down…what is left to do? Legal Experts should look at Bill and Hillary and the likes of them.

  42.' Malia Luchey says:

    what people don’t realize is… They experiment on us first to see if it works, effective, and what they can tweak or leave be. Let’s see what people say when they use it on the Don’t Tread on me crowd, and Patriot groups after they have worked out the kinks in the inner city. Peace and blessings.

  43. Well how about you just let
    Police get shot and killed ?bag. The man is a threat treated like one job done

  44.' Alan Meyer says:

    If lunatics and zombies cannot behave use whar ever means give the desired results

  45. The alarm was the shooting.

  46.' Jesse Bailey says:

    Um, so stupid. Guy is targeting cops. Has killed several and wounded more. Wants to kill more. Johnny 5 all day

  47.' Nelda Dunlap says:

    What about the violation of the constituational rights of the five officers gunned down? I say if you kill anybody your ass should loose all rights.

  48.' Carol Webb says:

    Bullshit. When our American people are flat out targeting our police, they get what they deserve! All this unrest is because obumma incited it. His Words….

  49.' Patricia says:

    Yes. The person on top of a building shooting innocent people didn’t require due process. So in those circumstances I say yes, bring in the Robots. They use them willy nilly. They are expensive. But cases like the one in Dallas. Hell yes.

  50.' Johnny Dee says:

    they should have waited, let him use up the rest of his ammo shooting people, and then ran in en masse with huggs and kisses….and asked him to please allow them to take him down to the station for questioning. If he didnt mind the inconvenience that is….
    hahahah what a bunch of idiots.

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