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Police robot sent into home, talks armed man out of standoff

ST. PAUL—A man who terrorized his ex-girlfriend by brandishing a gun and firing it into the air was persuaded by a robot to surrender to police in St. Paul early Sunday, according to a criminal complaint.

The complaint filed in Ramsey County District Court states that Ronny Santino Andrade, 32, of St. Paul confronted his ex-girlfriend and the woman's current boyfriend at about 2:30 a.m. in St. Paul as the couple was arriving home in a taxi.

The complaint said the ex-girlfriend saw Andrade take a handgun from his car and fire it three times in the air. Andrade accused the woman of ignoring their children and ordered her to get into his car, the complaint said. The woman's current boyfriend fled into a home, the complaint said.

As Andrade drove away with the woman, he gave her the gun and told her to put it in the glove box, but she sat on it to keep it away from him, the complaint said.

They ended up at a house in the 200 block of Geranium where Andrade's sister lives and where the ex-girlfriend's three children with Andrade were staying, the complaint said. Police surrounded the house. The sister and the ex-girlfriend were able to leave, but Andrade did not respond to loudspeaker requests from police, the complaint said.

Police were told that Andrade had two shotguns in the garage and routinely carried a 9mm handgun, the complaint said.

A SWAT team was called in, resulting in a standoff that lasted several hours, police said.

Eventually police sent a robot into the house, which searched the building "calling out directives to Andrade," the complaint said. The robot found Andrade lying with his 6-year-old daughter on a mattress in the basement, according to the complaint. Following commands from the robot, he left the home and was taken into custody, according to the complaint.

"In the end, that robot was able to bring this dangerous situation to a peaceful conclusion," according to Sgt. Mike Ernster, a St. Paul police spokesman.

The police department's robot has a video camera on it, so officers outside can see what is happening. It also has a two-way speaker that police can use to communicate with people barricaded in homes, according to Ernster.

The complaint said police found a shotgun in the garage, a handgun in the back of Andrade's car, and marijuana, suspected meth and tools stolen from a contractor in Maplewood at the house.

Andrade told police he last saw his ex-girlfriend Saturday, according to the complaint. He denied firing a handgun, the complaint said. He said he had spent the evening at a bar, returned home, "passed out" and "pretty much I wake up and I have this bomb-looking thing in front of me," the complaint said.

Andrade was charged with one count of making terroristic threats, and was ordered held in lieu of $35,000 bail.