On Thursday, Coconino County Sheriff’s deputies responded to a call in Tuba City. Allen Lynch, 54, had barricaded himself inside his home after a domestic dispute ended with him discharging his weapon.
The situation required a SWAT team from Flagstaff Police Department and a bomb squad whose robot Ethyl was first to enter Lynch'a house, helping law enforcement secure a safe arrest.
Ethyl, formally known as the Remotecc Andros F6B, is a bomb diffusion robot purchased by the police department in 1996 and is valued at $500,000.
Ethyl is the only robot owned by the police department and is remotely operated by three police officers assigned to the department’s bomb squad.
“This is the only bomb diffusion robot in the county so we use it for law enforcement across the county,” Flagstaff Police Department PIO Sgt. Corey Runge said. “It is the primary way we dispose of any explosives in the area.”
However, Ethyl has found herself to be a very versatile tool for law enforcement. The Allen arrest did not involve any explosives, but it did involve an armed man barricaded into a house that police could not see inside.
Knowing that an armed suspect was a safety concern for police officers on the scene, Flagstaff SWAT decided to deploy Ethyl into the Lynch home.
“The bomb robot is the best way to keep distance between our officers and the danger,” Runge said. “The way we look at it, a $500,000 robot has less value than human life so we put the robot in the dangerous situation instead of our officers.”
Ethyl’s video camera showed the way the robot was deployed during the raid on Lynch's house. The operator moves Ethyl up to the front gate and uses the robot’s claw to unhook the latch on the gate as a barking German shepherd hovers on the other side. The operator then moves Ethyl to the front door without any interference from the dog, where the robot opens the front door to find a sleeping Lynch.
Runge said deploying Ethyl into the building was the reason police were able to identify that it was safe for police to make the arrest and end a seven-hour standoff.
“The robot's video camera showed us that Allen was sleeping so it allowed us to confidently make the arrest without concern of injury,” Runge said. “As you saw the robot can climb over stairs and open doors so it really helped us assess our situation before we went inside the house.”
The bomb robot is not used often by the police department. In 2016 the Flagstaff Police Department Bomb Squad responded to 25 calls for service, with half of those calls requiring the assistance of Ethyl.
The robot was mainly used to inspect suspicious packages and go into buildings such as drug labs that contain highly combustible chemicals.
Flagstaff Police have had a bomb squad since 1970 and Ethyl is only the second robot ever purchased by the department.
Flagstaff Police’s first robot, Fred, was destroyed in 1996 after police attempted to remove an active hand grenade in Tuba City.
“We bought Ethyl in 1996 after we lost Fred in Tuba City,” Runge said. “Ethyl was able to get the job done in Tuba City because of Fred’s incident.”
Lynch is currently being held in Coconino County Detention Facility and is charged with aggravated assault with a deadly weapon, disorderly conduct with a firearm and criminal damage.