Upon the release of the augmented reality mobile game Pokémon Go, it garnered widespread attention globally. Regrettably, this phenomenon extended to two members of the Los Angeles Police Department who, rather regrettably, chose to engage with the game instead of responding to a nearby robbery call.
In early 2017, Officers Eric Mitchell and Louis Lozano received a radio call regarding a robbery at a Macy’s store located just 200 yards away within a mall. Astonishingly, as captured in recently released in-car video footage, one of the officers expressed a nonchalant attitude, uttering the phrase “screw it.”
When questioned by their superiors about their failure to respond to the urgent radio call, Mitchell and Lozano contended that the surrounding noise level had rendered them unable to hear the request for their presence. However, their commanding officer, guided by a trust but verify approach, examined their dashboard camera recording, which unveiled a conflicting narrative. Instead of pursuing criminals, the two officers were primarily focused on capturing rare Pokémon such as Snorlax and Togetic.
When questioned by their higher-ranking officers, the two officers asserted that they were merely discussing the augmented reality game and not actively participating in it. Regrettably, their explanations failed to gain credibility, leading to their unanimous dismissal in 2018.
Subsequently, Lozano and Mitchell initiated an appeal in an attempt to regain their positions, arguing that dashcam recordings were not intended to oversee private conversations. However, their appeal was promptly rejected by a judge who deemed their reasoning to be inadequate.
The officers’ transgressions extended beyond neglecting an emergency call for assistance. The dashcam recordings, eventually disclosed following a Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) request, expose a series of legal violations committed in their quest for Pokémon. While pursuing these mythical creatures, the officers engaged in reckless behavior, including tailgating civilians, speeding through residential areas, executing an illegal U-turn, and disregarding stop signs. Their misadventure culminated in driving against the flow of traffic on a one-way street.
It appears that, given Lozano’s 17-year tenure and Mitchell’s seven years as officers in the LAPD, they held the misguided belief that they were exempt from legal constraints.