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MSP Robot Dog 'Roscoe' Takes Bullets for His Human Law Enforcement Partners in Barnstable Incident

At noon on Wednesday, March 6, 2024, Massachusetts State Police Bomb Squad Troopers John Ragosa, Michael Rockett, and Stephan McKay responded to a residence at 24 St. Francis Circle in Barnstable to assist a SWAT Team comprised of local Cape Cod police officers with a situation involving an armed barricaded subject.


Upon their arrival the Troopers learned that the subject had fired upon officers with a rifle and barricaded himself inside the residence. The Troopers deployed two PacBot 510 tracked robots and a SPOT four-legged robot, commonly referred to as a robot dog, to assist in locating the subject inside the residence. Deployment of the remote-controlled robotic platforms allowed the team to safely gather crucial intelligence and provide situational awareness of the suspect and the home’s interior.


The Troopers conducted interior and exterior robotic operations to systematically check the house. Trooper Ragosa first deployed the SPOT robot – one of two operated by the unit – through the two top floors of the residence and cleared them.  Trooper Ragosa then deployed the SPOT —nicknamed “Roscoe” — into the home’s basement. Controlling SPOT remotely, he first cleared a closet in the basement and then was about to open another door when the male suspect suddenly appeared from a bedroom armed with a rifle.


The suspect attempted to knock Roscoe over and was eventually successful in doing so. After Roscoe was knocked down, the suspect, still carrying the rifle, began to ascend the stairs leading out of the bedroom. Unbeknownst to the suspect, SPOT robots have a self-righting function, and Trooper Ragosa was able to return Roscoe to his feet. Trooper Ragosa then began to walk Roscoe up the stairs behind the ascending suspect. When the suspect realized, with apparent surprise, that Roscoe was behind him on the stairs, he again knocked the robot over and then raised his rifle in the Roscoe’s direction. The robot suddenly lost communications.


The Troopers would later discover that that Roscoe had been shot three times by the suspect and had been rendered inoperable.

After shooting Roscoe, the suspect shot at one of the PacBot robots that was outside a sliding door, missing it and striking an above-ground pool in the backyard. SWAT operators subsequently introduced tear gas into the house; a short time later the suspect surrendered without further incident. He was taken into custody by Barnstable Police.


At the request of Barnstable Police, Roscoe was left in place inside the basement until the State Police Crime Scene Services Section and Firearms Identification Unit documented the scene.


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. 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 or a real dog, and may have prevented a police officer or K9 partner from being involved in an exchange of gunfire.


The following day, Trooper Ragosa brought Roscoe to manufacturer Boston Dynamics to have the company assist in removing the projectiles and to conduct a damage assessment. The company has expressed an interest in keeping Roscoe for research, and the process of replacing him with a new SPOT platform is underway.


Roscoe was one of two SPOT robots operated by the MSP Bomb Squad, which is assigned to the state Department of Fire Services. The Massachusetts State Police and the Department of Fire Services are committed to the use of advanced technology such as mobile robotic platforms to resolve hostile situations while reducing the threat to human life. 



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