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Police Used a Pizza-Delivering Bomb Disposal Robot to Talk a Man Out of Killing Himself

San Jose, CA police were able to save a man's life who was threatening to jump to his death after they sent a pizza-wielding robot to urge him to negotiate.
Hilary Pollack
Los Angeles, US

Pizza—in all of its deeply-beloved, circular, iconic, cheesy, perfect-in-every-way glory—is the key to (almost) anyone's heart. We love it, we eat it all the time, we worship its creation, we can't say no to it. And apparently, that principle applies even when you're quite literally teetering on the precipice of imminent suicide.

Police are only human. They have their fair share of problems, certainly, but they also share the same needs and desires as the rest of us. Which is why last week, when a man in San Jose, CA was threatening to throw himself from an overpass onto the freeway in a suicidal exhibition, the cops busted out the best idea they could think of: sending a robot to bring the man some pizza.


READ: The NYPD Hopes to Rehabilitate Gang Members with Pizza Parties

Early last week, California Highway Patrol was summoned to an overpass between California highways 280 and 680 as a man with a knife loomed stories above the concrete, threatening to end his life. A five-hour standoff ensued as police tried everything in their power to lure the man into custody and away from certain doom—including trying to send officers to talk to him face-to-face, and trained negotiators via a PA system—but nothing seemed to be doing the trick. So the San Jose Police Department's Mobile Emergency Response Group and Equipment Unit deployed a new negotiator: the Northrup Grumman Remotec Andros F6A, a robot typically used to dismantle and dispose of bombs.

The slow-moving Andros F6A needed to convince the likely scared and potentially dangerous man to pick up a phone and talk to officers who could calm him down and persuade him not to jump, so police equipped it with the greatest ambassador of all: a pizza.

Police sergeant Chris Sciba told IEEE Spectrum, "[Because] delivering food is a way of encouraging someone to do something we want them to do, we sent pizza with [the] phone. We [instructed the subject] that if he wanted the pizza released, to pick up the phone. The robot was holding the pizza, it released the pizza once the subject picked up [the] phone to talk to negotiators."

The Andros F6A also had an integrated audio-video system so that police could see the man's response as it approached. Lo and behold, the man picked up the phone to obtain his pizza prize and was convinced by negotiators to drop his knife and surrender. Less than an hour after the pizza-gifting robot was sent to his side, the man voluntarily approached officers and was taken into custody.

It may be a little cheesy, but we'd have to call that a happy ending. No matter how tough the going gets, choose pizza.