Two LAPD officers were recently fired for ignoring an active robbery call to catch an ultra-rare Pokémon in the augmented reality game Pokémon GO.
According to court records of the officers’ appeal of their termination, the officers argued that the video evidence of their private conversations regarding the game were “inadmissible.” An appellate court recently affirmed the decision to terminate the officers, calling their behavior “egregious misconduct.”
Court records stated that the official reason for the termination was due to the officers’ “willfully abdicating their duty to assist a commanding officer’s response to a robbery in progress and playing a Pokémon mobile game while on duty.”
According to in-car video and audio footage dug up by their Sergeant Jose Gomez, it was revealed that the now-fired officers Louis Lozano and Eric Mitchell decided to shirk their policing responsibilities in favor of hunting Pokémon.
After receiving radio calls from Gomez with orders to assist the captain during a robbery at a Macy’s department store in the Crenshaw Mall, the officers instead decided to drive off and capture a nearby “Snorlax” — the gigantic sleeping Pokémon.
The officers’ dismissal of Gomez with a single “No” on the radio prompted the sergeant to meet up with the officers and asked them why they ignored his call. Lozano and Mitchell told Gomez that they didn’t hear the radio due to nearby loud music.
Not satisfied, Gomez decided to investigate the pair’s in-car footage, which showed that the officers not only heard the call, but willfully ignored it to go catch Pokémon.
“I don’t want to be his help,” Lozano said in the recording, referring to the captain. The officers’ supervisor then made a second attempt to call them, after which Mitchell let his partner decide their course of action. “Aw, screw it,” Lozano replied.
Soon after ignoring the call, Mitchell said he spotted a Snorlax — an ultra-rare Pokémon — after it “popped up” at a nearby intersection.
Over the next 20 minutes, the officers could be seen and heard chatting about Pokémon and driving around in pursuit of the digital monsters. The pair successfully caught the Snorlax, and were then notified of a rare Togetic in the area — ironically, a Pokémon that is supposed to “bring good fortune.”
“Don’t run away,” Mitchell repeated as he attempted to capture the creature. Lozano caught his first, while Mitchell struggled on his end. “Holy crap, man. This thing is fighting the crap out of me.”
After ensnaring the unique Togetic, Mitchell mused that the “guys are going to be so jealous.”
When the officers were confronted by a detective about the conversation, they told him that they were simply having a conversation about the game and were receiving alerts from a player’s group online. The detective asserted that the officers were “not being truthful.”
Mitchell and Lozano were fired on six counts of on-duty misconduct. In their appeal of the decision, the officers admitted to hunting down the Snorlax, but called it an “extra patrol.” They argued that they were just taking photos and relaying Pokémon-related information to friends in the area, which was not the best excuse.
This comedic and bizarre incident represents the first time an officer may have been fired over the game, although plenty of people have been arrested for crimes related to the game, such as trespassing on private property to catch the digital creatures.
The pair responded to the ruling as “harsh” and said they simply “lacked good judgment.”
The board of rights, which initially terminated the officers, had some scathing words for the two: “Playing Pokémon Go showed complete disregard for the community, wasted resources, violated public trust and was unprofessional and embarrassing to the Department.”
VICE News, who broke the story, added that the board was further appalled by the officers’ lying. “Their behavior reflected gross negligence, cowardice, lack of thoughtfulness and deceit,” the board said.