Expert: Dallas PD’s use of bomb robot unprecedented but legal

The Dallas Police Department’s decision to end a stand-off with the man suspected of killing of five officers by killing him with a bomb-carrying robot was unprecedented but perfectly legal, said Pete Blair, executive director of a nationally recognized police active-shooter training facility in San Marcos.

Officers are permitted to use lethal force when a suspect is threatening lives, Blair said, and there is no restriction on what method of lethal force they use.

“Deadly force is deadly force. So if it reaches that level where you could shoot them, you could use other forms of force just as readily,” said Blair, an associate professor at Texas State University and leader of the Advanced Law Enforcement Rapid Response Center. “If I have a choice between risking the lives of officers with somebody we know has already murdered officers and risking a piece of machinery, I’d rather risk the piece of machinery.”

The explosive employed by Dallas police, a breaching charge, is typically used to blow up doors or barricades to allow police to enter a building or room, Blair said. It is unclear what type of robot was used, but many police departments have robots that are used to defuse bombs or inspect suspicious packages.

TAKE A BREAK AT MIDDAY: Click here for our midday email of news and entertainment

Dallas Police Chief David Brown said Friday morning that using the explosive was the only way to end the stand-off without risking the lives of more officers after the suspect, identified as Micah Xavier Johnson, had already killed five and wounded seven.

“We cornered one suspect and we tried to negotiate for several hours. Negotiations broke down. We had an exchange of gunfire with the suspect. 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,” Brown told reporters.

Other policing experts agreed with Blair’s assessment of the decision. The event marked a “new horizon for police technology” but not for the law surrounding police use of force, Seth Stoughton, an assistant professor of law at South Carolina University, told The Atlantic magazine.

“If someone is shooting at the police, the police are, generally speaking, going to be authorized to eliminate that threat by shooting them, or by stabbing them with a knife, or by running them over with a vehicle,” he said. “Once lethal force is justified and appropriate, the method of delivery — I doubt it’s legally relevant.”

Reader Comments ...

Next Up in Local

Democrats denounce Abbott and Patrick for cowardice on border crisis
Democrats denounce Abbott and Patrick for cowardice on border crisis

The Democratic candidates for governor and lieutenant governor Thursday excoriated Gov. Greg Abbott and Lt. Gov. Dan Patrick, both Republicans, as moral cowards and un-Texan for failing to condemn the Trump administration for the zero tolerance policy on illegal border crossings that led to the separation of children from their parents. “It has...
Community news: Free wellness workshops offered

TRAVIS COUNTY AUSTIN Wellness workshops offered Registration is open for two three-month wellness workshop series, hosted by the Texas A&M AgriLife Extension, that will be from 10:15 a.m. to noon in Austin libraries throughout the year. The first series will cover the impact of sugar on health July 14, the nutritional value of labels Aug. 11 and the...
Amid lodging shortage, day-trippers keep Port Aransas afloat
Amid lodging shortage, day-trippers keep Port Aransas afloat

Hurricane Harvey battered Deven Bhakta’s Port Aransas hotel until it was uninhabitable. The Category 4 hurricane’s 130 mph winds blew out windows and stripped parts of the roof off the three-story Holiday Inn Express, while the resulting storm surge filled the hotel with nearly 2 feet of water. The 74-unit building, which Bhakta owns, has...
UPDATE: Austin City Council members visit tent encampment at Tornillo
UPDATE: Austin City Council members visit tent encampment at Tornillo

Mayors from across the United States and most of the Austin City Council were at the Tornillo border crossing near El Paso on Thursday to protest President Donald Trump’s “zero tolerance” immigration policy. The group gathered on the road that leads into Mexico, a few hundred yards away from the facility where federal officials have...
Record number of Texans expected to hit the roads this Fourth of July holiday, AAA says
Record number of Texans expected to hit the roads this Fourth of July holiday, AAA says

More Texans will travel this Fourth of July holiday than ever before, according to new data released Thursday by AAA. The insurance company and member club said it expects 3.4 million Texans will travel 50 miles or more for the holiday, an increase of 5.7 percent from last year.  Nationwide, 46.9 million travelers are expected to travel,...
More Stories