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SYFY WIRE pokemon go

LAPD fires officers for allegedly chasing Pokémon Go Snorlax instead of robbers

Turns out you can’t always catch ‘em all.

By Benjamin Bullard
Pokemon GO

You can chase criminals, or you can chase Pokémon. But if you’re a police officer on the job, it’s probably smart to go with the former.

Recently-released court records (via the BBC) reveal that a pair of former Los Angeles Police Department officers have been dismissed from duty after allegedly prioritizing Pokémon Go over real-life perpetrators. The two officers were fired following an incident in 2017 — right at the height of the Pokémon Go craze — in which they were summoned as backup to an in-progress robbery at an area mall, but elected instead to go chasing a rare Pokémon that had evidently popped up not far from the scene.

Filed earlier this month, the records allege that LAPD officers Louis Lozano and Eric Mitchell “willfully failed to respond to the robbery call and attempted to conceal the fact by placing themselves Code 6 [i.e., responding to a different call] somewhere else.” The LAPD detective who conducted the ensuing misconduct investigation into their actions, the records state, “determined [the] petitioners [i.e., the two officers] were not being truthful.”

The "somewhere else" that allegedly captured the officers' attention appears to have been the super-warm trail of the elusive Snorlax, at the time among the most difficult-to-catch creatures in the entire Pokémon Go monster menagerie. Citing audio from a patrol car's DICVS, aka its digital in-car video system, an internal investigation alleged that Officer Mitchell told his partner that a Snorlax had "just popped up" at "46th and Leimert," just down the road from the Macy's department store where the robbery was unfolding.

“Aw, screw it,” Lozano allegedly said at one point, even as their patrol vehicle was allegedly parked “on the corner near the mall” where the Macy’s was located, according to the court records. Five minutes after that remark, the DICVS recorded the two officers’ first mention of the nearby Snorlax, followed by what appeared to be a strategic discussion of the quickest route to the rare Pokémon. “We got four minutes,” Mitchell allegedly told his partner.

“For approximately the next 20 minutes,” the records state, “the DICVS captured petitioners [the two officers] 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’” nearby, leading the duo to go “get the Togetic” — which it sounds like they did.

“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.’”

Though the officers apparently did get the Togetic (“The guys are going to be so jealous,” Mitchell allegedly said immediately after the ordeal), the records don’t reflect whether they ever caught the Snorlax. Both officers were fired following the 2017 incident, but appealed that decision, claiming that they were merely “having a conversation about Pokémon Go” and that Mitchell had simply been “receiving text messages and alerts from a Pokémon Go players group where ‘people [were] bragging about their scores.’”

This month, both officers lost their appeals. An LAPD media relations representative confirmed to SYFY WIRE today that the two officers “are no longer employed with the department, and their performance packages are not releasable.”