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July 4, 2003

Robot helps police defuse alleged dispute

From: Central Maine Daily Sentinel, ME - Jul 4, 2003

By ALAN CROWELL, Staff Writer

ETNA — The State Police Tactical Team used a newly acquired robot to negotiate with a deaf man who was allegedly involved in a domestic violence incident Wednesday morning.

Purchased in April with help from a federal grant, the robot, described as three to four feet tall with heavy wheels and capable of traveling about 1,200 feet from its operator, has been used by both the state police bomb squad and tactical team, according to State Police Sgt. Christopher Coleman, commander of the tactical team.

Early Wednesday morning, the robot helped the tactical team negotiate a peaceful end to an alleged domestic violence incident in which both the victim and the suspect were deaf.

Coleman said he was called to the incident about 1:30 a.m. By the time he arrived at the trailer off Route 143 in Etna, police had already attempted to evacuate neighbors from nearby homes.

Coleman, who said he could not provide many details of the incident, said there appeared to be a "significant public threat."

The alleged crime involved a firearm and any attempt by a lone officer to resolve it would have been very dangerous, according to Coleman.

"In any situation like that we try to communicate with the suspect and try to negotiate a peaceful surrender," Coleman said.

The victim was out of the home, but the alleged perpetrator was inside and could not be reached either by telephone or by police attempts to signal him through the home's windows.

Finally the team wrote a message on a sign roughly that the robot carried to the home.

The man read the sign, which asked him to either call police on the telephone or come out of the house with his hands up, and came out with his hands in the air.

Coleman said the fact that the robot could take the message to the man minimized the risk to all concerned.

"I think the results speak for themselves," he said.

Copyright © 2003 Blethen Maine Newspapers Inc.