Robot is now first line of defense for Rock Hill Bomb Squad

The men and women of the Rock Hill Bomb Squad put their lives on the line when responding to calls. But one member of the team steps up to take the first line of defense.

“If someone is on the inside, they could be possibly armed,” said Keenan McCrorey. “We don’t want to send a body in there because they could just be waiting on you.” McCrorey says they never know what a barricaded suspect has on them. But his team has a secret weapon.

“This is our robot,” said Eric Olson. “We use this for a lot of heavy lifting on the bomb squad.”

“We call him Big Boy,” McCrorey added. The robot can roll right into a residence and find a fugitive. “That way the swat team knew exactly where the person was and they were able to effect that arrest a lot more safely versus just going in blind.”

It has bionic senses built for a SWAT standoff and can even pick up a suspicious package. “It has a five camera system,” said Olson, who operates the controls from inside the truck. “These are all your arm controls and wrist. The microphone is here and the speaker is here. It looks similar to a gaming console, Nintendo switch style.”

The bomb squad says distance is their shield: “The number one key is safety and making our mistakes here in training so that we don’t make them in real life.”

On November 19, 2018 the Rock Hill Bomb Squad was called to a SWAT scene at Catawba Church Road. Two suspects barricaded themselves inside a mobile home for five hours. The York County Sheriff’s Office worked with the US Marshalls Office to serve a warrant. Teams deployed drones in the air and the robot on the ground to negotiate.

“The decision was made we would use that robot to deploy cigarettes,” said McCrorey. “So nobody was in physical danger.” The two suspects asked officers for a pack of cigarettes and then came out of the home without incident.

McCrorey says suspects are usually more receptive to a robot than an officer. “At first they are kinda like ‘What in the world is going on?’ But once we start communicating with them through the robot most people are more open to talking with the robot.”

Having Big Boy on the team brings his wife a little peace of mind: “It makes her feel better knowing that I have a robot that maybe I can attack those explosives with versus just walking in on them cowboy style.”

Right now the Rock Hill Bomb Squad has six members plus two robots, Big Boy and a smaller machine just like it. They are in the process of applying for a third robot that costs ninety thousand dollars. They are called to about twelve scenes each year.