Amazon is disputing a claim by a sheriff’s office in New Mexico that an Alexa-enabled device it produces called 911 during an alleged domestic assault.
The Bernalillo County Sheriff’s Department said in a statement Monday that a device on which Amazon’s voice-powered personal assistant was installed picked up a question from a man as he allegedly attacked his girlfriend and mistakenly interpreted it as a command to “call the sheriff.”
However, it’s unclear how that would have happened since Amazon spokeswoman Rachel Hass told The Albuquerque Journal that “Alexa cannot call 911. That feature is not supported and does not work.” Also, “call the sheriff” would not spark Alexa to place a call, an Amazon representative told BuzzFeed.
Mashable and BuzzFeed have raised similar doubts as to the accuracy of the sheriff’s office version of events. HuffPost has reached out to the sheriff’s office for further information.
The sheriff’s office statement said 28-year-old Eduardo Barros had used a firearm to threaten and then hit an unidentified woman in the face at a Tijeras property around 10 p.m. local time on July 2. He’d become angry at her when she received a text message and he accused her of cheating on him, reports KRQE News.
According to the sheriff’s statement, Barros asked the woman during the altercation, “Did you call the sheriff?” and the device picked up on the command.
It then prompted the device to “contact law enforcement,” the statement said, and the woman was heard yelling “Alexa, call 911” during the emergency call.
Deputies arrived at the home and were able to remove the woman, who’d suffered injuries to her face, and her child. The woman rejected medical treatment and the youngster was unharmed.
Barros holed himself up inside the property for six hours as crisis negotiation and SWAT teams attempted to broker his surrender. Officials eventually arrested Barros on suspicion of possession of a firearm by a felon, aggravated battery with a deadly weapon on a household member and false imprisonment.
He appeared in Bernalillo County Metropolitan Court on Wednesday. A judge instructed that he be held without bond until a hearing is scheduled, reports ABC News.
Bernalillo County Sheriff Manuel Gonzales III initially hailed the smart home device’s reported intervention in the alleged attack.
“The unexpected use of this new technology to contact emergency services has possibly helped save a life,” he said. “This amazing technology definitely helped save a mother and her child from a very violent situation.”
Deputy Felicia Romero, meanwhile, has told the Albuquerque Journal that deputies had simply recorded what the alleged victim told them, and confirmed the department wouldn’t be spending any more time investigating just how the call was placed.
“We’re thankful 911 got called, no matter how it got called,” Romero added.