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Robot Cop ends tense Massachusetts siege

Motorised go-kart plod saves the day

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The long-anticipated robot police are in action at last. Old-fashioned fleshy cops in Hingham, Massachusetts, were forced to call in mechanised assistance on Saturday as a tense siege situation spiralled out of control.

"A five-hour standoff between police and a 23-year-old Hingham man barricaded inside an apartment ended...thanks to some help from a robot," reports the local Patriot Ledger.

Professor Sean Verano, a specialist in criminal justice at Northeastern University, told the Patriot Ledger that in the past police "could rush in and try to subdue a suspect before any harm occurred, or wait...the waiting game can turn deadly. The suspect may hurt himself or someone else".

But nowadays there is a third option – send in the droids.

Saturday's incident apparently began after David L Donahue Junior, of Fottler Road, Hingham, returned to the apartment he shared with his mother and sister after an evening's drinking. He turned nasty, and "allegedly took a knife and threw it against a wall". Mother and daughter fled the scene and called police, as Donahue "barricaded himself" into the unoccupied apartment across the hall.

Massed police including SWAT and bomb-disposal units were soon on the scene, of course, and a "crisis negotiation unit" attempted to open talks with Donahue by loudhailer and telephone, but he refused to respond. SWAT officers attempted to get his attention by hurling a stun grenade into the building's driveway, but strangely this didn't put the beleaguered Donahue in a chatty mood.

There was only one thing for it. With SWAT cops no doubt reluctant to face a man hopped-up on a cocktail of, er, alcohol and possibly armed with a deadly knife, it was time to call in Robocop – or even ED-209.

Sadly, this being real life, all that was available was a fairly ordinary bomb-disposal bot, described by the Patriot Ledger as a battery-powered "go-cart with wheels and treads that moves by remote control from a van". However, this relatively unimpressive cyber-cop was duly sent in to see what mischief the besieged Donahue might be brewing.

But things didn't go smoothly for the electric go-kart enforcer. According to one of the Donahues' neighbours, "the robot came down the street, went around the outside of the duplex, then tried to go up the front stairs - and got stuck".

In an act of tremendous bravery, a normal doughnut-fuelled plod had to lift the droid up the steps so it could get into the Donahue apartment, which was empty.

"Then the SWAT officers entered the apartment with Sgt Timothy Cahoon of Braintree and a dog," notes the Patriot Ledger.

It was now necessary to tackle the apartment which Donahue was actually in. Dealing with his barricade could have been a tricky challenge for the droid copper, but in the event the ordinary peace officers – perhaps tiring of their robot colleague getting all the limelight – handled it themselves.

"Police entered the other apartment through the back door and arrested Donahue. No one was injured," reports the Patriot Ledger. It isn't specifically mentioned in the article, but it seems obvious that everyone then returned to the station for a congratulatory round of doughnuts and battery charging. ®

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