Tuesday, October 5, 2004

Robot helped negotiate surrender

Armed man holed up in empty house after car chase

The Associated Press

BOWLING GREEN, Ky. - Authorities negotiating the surrender of an armed man who barricaded himself in a home used a communications robot to keep up a long conversation before the man surrendered over the weekend.

Russell Sublett also spoke to his son, who is about 12, and a Bowling Green police officer he had known for years before giving up Saturday.

Nearly 100 state and federal agents had gathered outside the unoccupied home, and Sublett fired from inside during the siege. Sublett, 41, had led police on a chase Wednesday from Glasgow to a Warren County horse farm, where he had worked until this summer.

In the end, Sublett agreed to talk only after a federal agent who had entered the house shot him in his right shoulder as he charged up the basement steps, authorities said.

Kentucky State Police Trooper John Holder said that when the agent shot Sublett, the man fell down the stairs. The siege resumed, and Sublett tackled a small communications robot the agents had sent into the house, taking it with him.

"As soon as he was shot, he started talking his head off," Holder said. "He began to have a conversation with the robot, telling it, 'Hey little buddy,' and then began talking to us through the robot."

For the next five hours or so, agents spoke to Sublett through the robot, which was equipped with both a camera and microphone, and other devices. Late in the afternoon, he spoke to his son and finally surrendered after speaking to the Bowling Green Police officer.

Sublett was taken to the Medical Center in Bowling Green for treatment of his wounds, which officials said were not life-threatening.

Special Agent Laura Volk of the federal Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives, said he appeared to have been shot at least four times, including at least three wounds sustained in a shootout with officers during Wednesday's car chase.

Sublett faced federal and state charges, authorities said.

On Wednesday, federal agents planned to execute a search warrant at Sublett's Smiths Grove home, but wanted to detain him away from the house before serving it.

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