Two Los Angeles police officers were fired for ignoring a robbery in progress and instead trying to catch a Snorlax in Pokémon Go, according to court documents published Friday.
According to the officers’ appeal, former LAPD officers Louis Lozano and Eric Mitchell were fired for “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.”
The incident happened in April, 2017, at a Macy’s at Los Angeles’ Crenshaw Mall. According to court records, a patrol supervisor called Mitchell and Lozano to respond to an apparent robbery in progress at the Macy’s; several police officers left the scene of a homicide to respond to the call. Mitchell and Lozano, meanwhile, were in the area but didn’t respond to the call and instead backed down an alley and drove away.
A later investigation of video and audio evidence showed that Mitchell and Lozano discussed responding to the robbery but decided not to. Moments later, Mitchell and Lozano were recorded saying that a “Snorlax … just popped up .. at 46th and Leimert,” and the two strategized how to best catch the rare, gigantic Pokémon.
“For approximately the next 20 minutes, [the in-car monitoring system] captured [Mitchell and Lozano] discussing Pokémon as they drove to different locations where the virtual creatures apparently appeared on their mobile phones,” the court documents say. “On their way to the Snorlax location, Officer Mitchell alerted Officer Lozano that ‘a Togetic just popped up,’” referring to another Pokémon.
Though Mitchell and Lozano did not catch the alleged robbers at Macy’s, they did catch the Snorlax and Togetic after harrowing encounters with both. (A footnote in the court document notes that, “according to evidence admitted at the board of rights hearing, ‘Snorlax’ is a Pokémon creature known as ‘the Sleeping Pokémon.’” Anyone who has played Pokémon will know that Snorlaxes often block entire roads and can be woken with a Pokeflute, but is very difficult to catch because of his size and strength.)
“After Mitchell apparently caught the Snorlax—exclaiming, ‘Got ‘em’—petitioners agreed to ‘go get the Togetic’ and drove off.” Mitchell said that he “buried” the Togetic and used an Ultra Ball on it, and was “still trying to catch it” after quite some time.
“Holy crap, man. This thing is fighting the crap out of me,” Mitchell said, according to court records. “Holy crap. Finally …. the guys are going to be so jealous.”
Though they were recorded explaining the entirety of this encounter, as is common with police, both Mitchell and Lozano lied about what happened, according to the court records. Both of them claimed they were merely catching “images” of Pokémon, not playing a “game.” They also claimed that Pokémon Go is not a “game” but was more of a “social media event” that was not “advertised as a game,” the court records say. Eventually, both admitted to going after the Snorlax because they wanted to “chase this mythical creature.”
Anyways, both of the former officers were fired, appealed the decision by claiming that the LAPD violated their privacy by listening to their conversation, and lost their appeal Friday.
In earlier court filings, the city wrote that the board of rights, which fired the two officers, stated that “playing Pokémon Go showed complete disregard for the community, wasted resources, violated public trust and was unprofessional and embarrassing to the Department.” It also said that the officers lied, and thus “Their behavior reflected gross negligence, cowardice, lack of thoughtfulness and deceit.”
Both officers tried to get reinstated by referencing a 1975 case in which an employee named Dr. Skelly who regularly drank alcohol on the job and skipped shifts was reinstated, but the Los Angeles police department argued that playing Pokémon Go and lying about it was by far a worse infraction: “The facts in Skelly showed that despite occasionally drinking one or two alcoholic beverages at lunch, not following Department work hours and having unexcused absences, Dr. Skelly's conduct did not affect the public service … Here, Petitioners' untruthfulness directly affects their ability to testify in criminal cases. They misused their positions to engage in playing games while on duty and using public resources and ignored their official law enforcement duties putting others in danger. Little else harms the public service more.”