How Two Police Drones Saved a Woman’s Life

An innovative use of the surveillance technology in Virginia offers a reminder that there are often alternatives to confrontation.

After years of writing critically about police officers using excessive force and police departments abusing surveillance technology, I couldn’t be happier to relay a story in which cops used drones as a tool to help them avoid taking a life.

It began when a woman, 57, left Cocoa Beach, Florida, drove all the way to Stafford County, Virginia, pulled into a Walmart parking lot, backed her sedan up against a 16-wheeler cab with a sleeping trucker inside, and took out a silver revolver. “She kept talking to herself, yelling profanities and enticing us to shoot her, over and over and over again,” a local police officer later told The Washington Post.

Its was an apparent attempt at “suicide by cop.”

Desperate people like the Florida woman, who was reportedly down to her last $14, decide to provoke their own death by waving a gun or knife at a police officer, knowing law enforcement is trained to shoot if they feel their life is threatened. Cops who shoot in such situations were manipulated into doing so, but that doesn’t spare them from feelings of trauma or guilt for taking a human life. Some recall doing so as the worst moment in their careers or even their lives.