High-Tech Robot Defuses Possible Pipe Bomb

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A suspected pipe bomb found in a Payson neighborhood was destroyed Monday afternoon with the help of a high-tech robot imported from the Valley.

A homeowner on Forest Road near McLane found the device Monday morning on the road in front of his home when he took his garbage barrel to the curb.

"It looked like something kids had made," said the homeowner, who alerted authorities at about 8 a.m. "It had what looked like a very short fuse on it. I'm guessing that it fell out of the back of a truck."

"Upon inspection, we believed it very likely could have been a pipe bomb," Lt. Don Engler of the Payson Police Department said. Police closed both McLane and Forest Roads from 9 a.m. to 1:30 p.m. "It was a piece of metal pipe with caps on the end, and it looked like there was some fusing or a detonation-type device attached to it."

Payson police officials summoned Department of Public Safety bomb technicians from the Valley, who arrived on the scene with an Andros Mark VI-A explosive ordnance disposal unit.

DPS detective and bomb technician Ben Quezada, used the robot to discharge a shell into the suspected pipe bomb, making it safe, around 1 p.m.

"We were not able to determine (if the device contained explosive materials) right off the bat," Quezada said.

Engler and other Payson police officers collected the remains of the device.

"If we can develop a suspect in the case, we may go ahead and send it into the lab," Engler said Tuesday morning. "But we sure don't have any indication there was any (explosive) powder in it, at this point."

The $140,000, 250-pound Andros Mark VI-A, Quezada said, "is probably one of the most advanced models around. It is designed specifically (to detonate) improvised explosive devices" such as homemade pipe bombs.

"It also can be used for nuclear and biological types of improvised explosive devices, and for opening packages and pipes believed to be explosive devices."

The robot is essentially a small, remotely-operated unmanned vehicle on wheels. Outfitted with a variety of law enforcement equipment, it has the ability to enter areas considered unsafe for people and perform an assortment of operations necessary to ensure the safety of officers and the public.

Equipped with a surveillance camera, two-way audio system, remote manipulator arm and a 12-gauge shotgun, it can climb steps and over obstacles, enter areas with hazardous materials, disarm suspicious packages at a safe distance, deliver phones and other supplies and communicate with suspects and victims in hostage situations.

Particularly useful for conducting dangerous surveillance missions that can provide vital information for assessing a threat to officers.

The robot also is capable of breaking through a sliding glass door and dragging an injured person to safety.

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