An open phone line, sounds of a scuffle and shouts of “Alexa call 911” led to the arrest of a domestic violence suspect in the East Mountains last week.
The story of that arrest – and technology’s role in it – ricocheted around the country as national media outlets reported on how Alexa, Amazon’s digital assistant on a smart speaker, saved a Tijeras woman who was being beaten, allegedly by her boyfriend.
Bernalillo County Sheriff Manuel Gonzales released a statement Monday praising the technology for having “helped save a mother and her child from a very violent situation.”
However, a spokeswoman for Amazon also said Monday that story can’t be right.
“Alexa cannot call 911,” said Rachel Hass, who works for Alexa Public Relations. “That feature is not supported and does not work.”
Alexa is the name of the voice that controls the Amazon Echo hands-free speaker. Hass said it cannot make calls to all numbers and can only call another Amazon Echo device or a device with the Alexa app.
It all started on the night of July 2, when Eduardo Barros, 28, and his girlfriend were drinking wine and housesitting for her parents in Tijeras and he accused her of cheating on him, according to a criminal complaint filed in Metropolitan Court.
The woman said Barros began yelling at her and threatening to kill her if she called police. He then hit her in the face with a 9mm handgun, threw her to the ground and kicked her at least 10 times, she said.
Somehow, BCSO was called.
When dispatchers picked up, they heard a woman shouting, “Alexa call 911!” so deputies were sent to check things out, said Felicia Romero, a BCSO spokeswoman.
When deputies arrived, the woman and her preteen daughter had been able to escape from the house.
The woman had swelling and bruising on her face and body, but she didn’t want to go to the hospital. Her daughter had been asleep upstairs during the attack and was not hurt, Romero said.
The victim told deputies she hadn’t dialed 911, so they believed the Amazon smart speaker made the call.
Barros refused to come out of the house and was arrested by a K-9 officer after a six-hour SWAT standoff, Romero said.
He was booked into the county jail and charged with aggravated battery on a household member, false imprisonment and other crimes. He was still in jail Monday evening.
Although Romero and the sheriff credited technology for saving the victim and her child, Romero said deputies didn’t look into it to see if it was possible.
She said deputies just repeated what the victim had told them and they won’t be investigating the device further.
“We’re thankful 911 got called, no matter how it got called,” Romero said.