An Amazon Echo device is displayed at the Ford booth at CES 2017 at the Las Vegas Convention Center on January 5, 2017 in Las Vegas, Nevada. (Photo by David Becker/Getty Images)
Theresa Seiger, Cox Media Group National Content Desk
Deputies in New Mexico are crediting Amazon’s personal assistant software, Alexa, with tipping authorities off last week to a violent confrontation between a man and his girlfriend – although Amazon says that’s not possible.
Bernalillo County deputies were called around 10 p.m. MDT on July 2 to a home on Puntilla Drive in Tijeras. Deputies said a woman had been threatened and hit in the face with a handgun during a confrontation with her 28-year-old boyfriend, Eduardo Barros. Her child, who was also in the home, was uninjured.
Deputies said that during the attack, Barros asked his girlfriend if she called the Sheriff’s Office.
“This question, based on the victim’s statements, prompted a smart home device known as ‘Alexa’ to contact law enforcement,” deputies said in a news release. “In the 911 recording, the victim can be heard yelling, ‘Alexa, call 911.’”
Deputies said they found Barros barricaded inside the home when they arrived. Authorities attempted to negotiate with Barros to bring him out of the home but eventually used a police K-9 unit to get him out, deputies said.
Barros faces charges including aggravated battery with a deadly weapon and aggravated assault with a deadly weapon on a household member.
“The unexpected use of this new technology to contact emergency services has possibly helped save a life,” Sheriff Manuel Gonzales said. “This amazing technology definitely helped save a mother and her child from a very violent situation.”
Whether Alexa actually called authorities, however, is up for debate.
Amazon spokeswoman Rachel Hass told the Albuquerque Journal that it would have been impossible for the virtual assistant to call authorities.
“Alexa cannot call 911,” she told the newspaper. “That feature is not supported and does not work.”
Trery Forgety, director of government affairs and information and security issues for NENA: The 911 Association, echoed Hass while speaking with The New York Times.
“I have not heard of an Alexa device being a problem from a 911 perspective because they do not have native telephone capabilities,” he told the newspaper.