Two Los Angeles Police Department officers were fired in 2017 after squad car video revealed the men ignored a nearby robbery in progress to chase mythical creatures in the augmented reality game Pokémon Go instead, newly released court documents said.
Former LAPD officers Louis Lozano and Eric Mitchell were fired for “willfully abdicating their duty” to provide fellow officers with backup at a crime scene in favor of leaving the area to hunt a Snorlax and a Togetic in the mobile game, according to legal records.
Last Friday, more than four years after Lozano and Mitchell’s hunt for the elusive Pokémon, a California judge denied their appeal for reinstatement.
In April 2017, a patrol supervisor instructed Lozano and Mitchell to respond to a robbery in progress at a Macy’s in the Crenshaw Mall, according to Los Angeles County Judge Mary H. Strobel’s Friday opinion.
Several other officers departed a homicide scene in order to respond to the call, documents said. But Lozano and Mitchell, who were nearby, ignored the call and drove down an alley, according to the documents. When their supervisor later asked the pair why they hadn’t responded to the call, Lozano and Mitchell said they hadn’t heard it on the radio because they were in a loud area, the opinion said.
Unconvinced by their explanation, the supervisor checked their vehicle’s dashcam and discovered the pair had indeed heard the request but departed the area after discussing not wanting to help. A formal investigation was prompted after the supervisor reported the incident, according to court documents.
A second investigation into the vehicle’s video and audio evidence revealed that moments after deciding not to respond to the robbery, Lozano and Mitchell discussed how best to catch a Snorlax that popped up on a different street.
Players of the virtual game, which became a global phenomenon in 2016, know the Snorlax as “the sleeping Pokémon;” a notoriously difficult creature to catch due to its hefty size and strength. The Togetic, however, is a dainty creature, small in stature.
“For approximately the next 20 minutes, [the dashcam] captured [Mitchell and Lozano] discussing Pokémon as they drove to different locations where the virtual creatures apparently appeared on their mobile phones,” court documents said.
After Mitchell caught the Snorlax, he exclaimed, “Got ’em!” according to Strobel’s opinion.
The officers then drove off to hunt yet another beast.
“Holy crap, man. This thing is fighting the crap out of me,” Mitchell said, according to court documents. “Holy crap. Finally …. the guys are going to be so jealous.”
The pair found victory in their technological endeavors, successfully catching the Snorlax and Togetic, despite the virtual creatures putting up an apparent fight. The officers’ passionate attempts to secure the beings were all caught on the recording.
When they were confronted about the incident by their superiors, both men reportedly denied they had been playing Pokémon Go and said they had simply been having a conversation about the game.
Lozano and Mitchell also tried to argue that the game was in fact, not a game, but a “social media event.”
The officers eventually admitted to leaving their patrol area to hunt the Snorlax, but insisted they did so to provide “extra patrol,” as well as to “chase this mythical creature,” court documents said.
They were fired nonetheless.
Lozano and Mitchell appealed their case, arguing that the vehicular dashcam is not meant to be a monitoring system for officers” “private conversations,” but Strobel called the defense “flawed” and ruled against their appeal last week.
A spokesperson for the Los Angeles Police Department declined to comment.