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“Aw, screw it”: LAPD cops hunted Pokémon instead of responding to robbery

Visitors view a 10-meter-tall Pikachu glass and steel sculpture in Shanghai, China On November 28, 2021.
Enlarge / Visitors view a 10-meter-tall Pikachu glass and steel sculpture in Shanghai, China On November 28, 2021.

A California appeals court has upheld the firings of two Los Angeles Police Department officers who failed to respond to a robbery in progress and instead went searching for a Snorlax in the Pokémon Go augmented reality game.

Officers Louis Lozano and Eric Mitchell were being recorded by a digital in-car video system (DICVS) when they decided to catch a Pokémon after not responding to a robbery on Saturday, April 15, 2017, according to the California Court of Appeal ruling issued Friday. A board of rights found the officers “guilty on multiple counts of misconduct” based on part on the “recording that captured petitioners willfully abdicating their duty to assist a commanding officer’s response to a robbery in progress and playing a Pokémon mobile phone game while on duty,” the ruling said.

The former officers appealed, claiming the city “proceeded in a manner contrary to the law by using the DICVS recording in their disciplinary proceeding and by denying them the protections of the Public Safety Officers Procedural Bill of Rights Act,” Friday’s ruling said. A trial court denied the petition challenging the firings, and a three-judge panel at the appeals court unanimously upheld that decision on Friday.

“Aw, screw it”

Lozano and Mitchell were on a nearby patrol when there was a radio call to respond to a robbery in progress with several suspects at a Macy’s in the Crenshaw Mall. They later told their supervisor, Sgt. Jose Gomez, that they did not hear the call asking for backup at the mall, but the DICVS recording showed that they ignored attempts to reach them, the ruling said:

After communications made a second attempt to contact petitioners, Officer Lozano asked if they should “ask [communications] if there’s a message.” Officer Mitchell replied, “It’s up to you. Whatever you think. I don’t want them to think we’re not paying attention to the radio.” Lozano responded, “Aw, screw it.” Petitioners made no attempt to respond over the radio when their unit was called.

Instead of going toward the scene of the robbery, the officers “moved backwards through the alley and turned away from the mall,” the ruling said.

Snorlax at 46th and Leimert

The hunt for a Snorlax allegedly began at 6:09 pm, five minutes after Lozano said, “screw it.”

The ruling explained:

Officer Mitchell alerted Lozano that “Snorlax” “just popped up” at “46th and Leimert.” After noting that “Leimert doesn’t go all the way to 46th,” Lozano responded, “Oh, you [know] what I can do? I’ll [go] down 11th and swing up on Crenshaw. I know that way I can get to it.” Mitchell suggested a different route, then told Lozano, “We got four minutes.”

For approximately the next 20 minutes, the DICVS captured petitioners discussing Pokémon as they drove to different locations where the virtual creatures apparently appeared on their mobile phones. On their way to the Snorlax location, Officer Mitchell alerted Officer Lozano that “a Togetic just popped up,” noting it was “[o]n Crenshaw, just south of 50th.” After Mitchell apparently caught the Snorlax— exclaiming, “Got ’em”—petitioners agreed to “[g]o get the Togetic” and drove off. When their car stopped again, the DICVS recorded Mitchell saying, “Don’t run away. Don’t run away,” while Lozano described how he “buried it and ultra-balled” the Togetic before announcing, “Got him.” Mitchell advised he was “[s]till trying to catch it,” adding, “Holy crap, man. This thing is fighting the crap out of me.” Eventually Mitchell exclaimed, “Holy crap. Finally,” apparently in reference to capturing the Togetic, and he remarked, “The[] guys are going to be so jealous.” Petitioners then agreed to return to the 7-Eleven (where Sergeant Gomez later met them) to end their watch. On the way, Mitchell remarked, “I got you a new Pokémon today, dude.”

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