On the morning of June 12, 1990, Chris McKinstry went looking for a gun. At 11 am, he walked into Nick's Sport Shop on a busy street in downtown Toronto and approached the saleswoman behind the counter. "I'll take a Winchester Defender," he said, referring to a 12-gauge shotgun in the display. She eyeballed the skinny 23-year-old and told him he'd need a certificate to buy it.Two and a half hours later, McKinstry returned, claiming to have the required document. The clerk showed him the gun, and he handled the pistol grip admiringly. Then, as she returned it to its place, he grabbed another shotgun from the case, yanked a shell out of hispocket, and jammed it into the chamber. "He's got a gun! He's got a gun!" a woman screamed, as she ran out the front door.
The store emptied. He didn't try to stop anyone.Soon McKinstry heard sirens. A police truck screeched up, and men in black boots and body armor took up positions around the shop.
caught glimpses of him through the store windows with the gun jammed
under his chin. They tried to negotiate by phone. They brought in his
girlfriend, with whom he'd just had a fight, to plead with him. They
brought in a psychiatrist — McKinstry had a history of mental problems
and had tried to institutionalize himself the day before. After five
hours, McKinstry ripped the telephone from the wall and retreated into
the basement, where he spent two hours listening to radio coverage of
the standoff.Eventually, a reporter announced that the cops had
decided on their next move:
Send in the robot.
McKinstry had stolen the
gun because he wanted to end his own life, but now he was intrigued.
He'd always been obsessed with robots and artificial intelligence. At
4, he had asked his mother to sew a sleeping bag for his toy robot so
it wouldn't get cold. "Robots have feelings," he insisted. Despite
growing up poor with a single mom, he had taught himself to code. At
12, he wrote a chess-playing program on his RadioShack TRS-80 Model 1.
As McKinstry cowered in the
basement, he could hear the robot rumbling overhead, making what he
called "Terminator" noises. It must be enormous, he thought, as it
knocked over shelves. Then everything went eerily quiet. McKinstry saw
a long white plume of smoke arc over the stairs.......
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