Police are Blocking the Release of Information About They’re “Bomb Robots”

David Lee | Courthouse News Service

DALLAS (CN) — Dallas Police Department officials want to block the release of “highly intimate or embarrassing” information regarding the use of a bomb disposal robot to kill a sniper who murdered five officers last month, saying it is of no legitimate concern to the public.

City officials asked Texas Attorney General Ken Paxton for an advisory opinion on July 19, in response to at least 17 public information requests by journalists. The requests want access to robot and body camera footage, among other things.

Armed with a brick of C-4 explosive, the robot detonated and killed Micah Xavier Johnson, 25, of Mesquite, in the early hours of July 8 on the campus of El Centro College in downtown Dallas.

Dallas Police Chief David Brown told reporters at the time that hours-long negotiations with Johnson had failed.

“Our bomb robot detonated a bomb where the suspect was,” Brown said. “Other options would have subjected officers to great danger.”

Brown said Johnson was upset about recent police shooting of black men in Baton Rouge and the suburbs of Minneapolis.

“He said he was upset at white people,” Brown said.

“He said he wanted to kill white people, especially white police officers. He stated he was not affiliated with any groups, and he stated he did this alone.”

The detonation was the first known use of a bomb disposal robot to kill a suspect by a U.S. police department.

Authored by Assistant City Attorney P. Armstrong, the letter to Paxton argues that some of the requested information “is protected by common-law privacy,” which protects information that is “highly intimate or embarrassing, such that its release would be highly objectionable to a reasonable person, and it is of not legitimate concern to the public.”

The letter states that some of the requested information is considered confidential under the law.

It also invokes “special circumstances,” and the release of the information would endanger officers working undercover, Armstrong writes.

“The disclosure of the requested information that includes such information could jeopardize the safety and well-being of these officers and the confidential informants used by DPD,” the letter states. “As well, it may subject them to retaliation for offenses attained from the location if this information is disclosed.”

The letter says some of the requested information is protected by the Texas Homeland Security Act, since it involves operating procedures of the department’s Homeland Security and Special Operations Division.

“This information is vital in coordinating and dispatching police and fire personnel to emergencies,” the letter states. “As such, it is critical that DPD be able to protect information directly related to the operating procedures of this division.”

Published by Courthouse News Service