CHICAGO (WLS) --When Dallas Police improvised the use of a remote control robot to blow up a shooter, it was heralded as a new frontier for law enforcement. While that may have been the first time a robot was sent in to stop and kill a criminal, the I-Team learned Tuesday night that Cook County's bomb squad has long had a similar attack plan in its playbook.
Police department robots are usually seen checking a suspicious object on Chicago highways or removing homemade explosives from a house in the suburbs. Robots remove the hazards to places where authorities can safely blow them up, away from areas that might harm residents or law enforcement.
On Thursday in Dallas, the robot world changed. Micah Johnson opened fire on police, killing five officers and wounding nine others and two civilians.
911 dispatch: "Slow down. He's in the damn building right there. (Inaudible) He's in that building. We're hearing shots from that building!"
Chief David Brown said he told his SWAT team to devise a plan that would keep officers out of the kill zone and take out the suspect.
"They improvised this whole idea in about 15, 20 minutes - extraordinary," said Brown.
The robot delivered a pound of c-4 explosive close enough to the shooter to blow him up, a tactic that Sgt. Larry Drish, commander of the Cook County Sheriff's police bomb squad, always has available.
"We have been practicing this sort of thing for years, we have the capability in our response trucks and in the response truck with the robots to immediately deploy explosives, with whatever technology we have to immediately end the threat," Drish said.
Cook County's three robots are funded with Homeland Security money.
The Illinois Secretary of State police bomb squad has a similar robot unit based in Springfield.
There are also more than a dozen other police departments listed on pentagon records that have received these quarter-million dollar robots under a military supply program that was criticized as police over-militarization following the Ferguson, Missouri riots.
Drish said the robots serve a great public service.
"A robot is a platform that can go places where people won't be put in harm's way," he said.
Most departments do not keep their robots locked up until a Dallas-style event. They are used regularly to check out unknown objects including suspects possibly wearing suicide vests. Hostage negotiators can use them to communicate with suspects, and they're in the wings for big political events.