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Amazon smart speaker may have made the call that saved a life

Police in New Mexico believe an Amazon virtual assistant — known as Alexa — is responsible for contacting authorities during a domestic dispute earlier this month.

Eduardo Barros, 28, got into a heated argument with his girlfriend and her daughter while they were house-sitting on July 2 in Tijeras, near Albuquerque, New Mexico, ABC News reported. The altercation quickly became violent when Barros allegedly threatened to shoot his girlfriend before hitting her in the face with a handgun.

At some point during the assault, the Bernalillo County Sheriff’s office was notified of the dispute. According to a statement from the sheriff’s office, authorities responded to a 911 call around 10 p.m.

The police report claims that, during the altercation, Barros asked his girlfriend, “Did you call the sheriffs?” That question then prompted an Amazon smart speaker to contact law enforcement. And in the 911 recording, the victim can be heard yelling: “Alexa, call 911.”

“The unexpected use of this new technology to contact emergency services has possibly helped save a life,” Bernalillo County Sheriff Manuel Gonzales III said in a statement. “This amazing technology definitely helped save a mother and her child from a very violent situation.”

But the jury is still out on exactly what role the Amazon device played in the dispute. The Seattle-based technology company said this week that Alexa is actually incapable of calling 911.

“Alexa calling and messaging does not support 911 calls,” a spokesperson told BuzzFeed News.

Nevertheless, the sheriff’s deputies arrived and were able to remove the girlfriend, whose name has not been released to the public, from the home. Barros, however, refused to leave the premises. After a six-hour standoff with the Bernalillo County Sheriff’s crisis negotiation team and a SWAT team, the man was taken into custody.

Barros has been charged with possession of a firearm by a felon, aggravated battery against a household member, aggravated assault against a household member, and false imprisonment. He appeared July 5 in Bernalillo County Metropolitan Court in Albuquerque.

A public defender is representing Barros, who has not yet entered a plea, according to the court.

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