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LAPD officers fired for hunting Pokémon during robbery denied appeal

a pair of hands hold a cellphone with the game Pokemon Go on the screen
A file photo of a person playing the GPS-based game Pokémon Go. AP Photo/Thomas Cytrynowicz

Two Los Angeles Police Department officers who were more intent on catching Pokémon than bad guys have failed in their bid to get their jobs back.

LAPD officers Louis Lozano and Eric Mitchell ignored a 2017 dispatch to respond to a local robbery, instead choosing to hunt a Snorlax on Pokémon Go, a GPS-based, augmented reality cellphone game, court documents published last week show.

They were fired later in 2017 upon discovery of their attempted clandestine activity.

The pair appealed to have their firings reversed, but the California Court of Appeal ruled that the terminations were justified.

The officers decided to go after a Snorlax instead of respond to a robbery. Courtesy / Pokémon Go

According to the documents, April 15, 2017 was a busy day for the LAPD’s southwest division, and there were more calls than police cars available to respond, due to a homicide earlier in the day.

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Lozano and Mitchell were parked close to Crenshaw Mall when a call went out asking for officers to respond to a robbery in progress at the Macy’s department store in the mall.

A commanding officer for the division reportedly heard a radio call for the robbery at the time and a patrol supervisor, Sgt. Jose Gomez, attempted to radio Lozano and Mitchell’s unit to provide backup but did not receive a response.

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Lozano and Mitchell later claimed that they were engaging with community members in a noisy park and did not hear the call for help.

But the court records show that Gomez became suspicious of their “peculiar” excuse and checked the recordings from the officers’ dashcam system.

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He learned that the officers not only ignored the call, but also put out a radio code in a different area, trying to conceal the fact they were near the robbery.

I don’t want to be his help,” Lozano was heard saying to Mitchell, regarding the commanding officer’s request for backup. “Aw, screw it,” he added.

Five minutes later, Mitchell told Lozano that “Snorlax,” a Pokémon in the mobile game, “just popped up” at a nearby location.

The officers spent the next 20 minutes “discussing Pokémon as they drove to different locations where the virtual creatures apparently appeared on their mobile phones,” according to court documents, which also describe the Snorlax as “the Sleeping Pokémon.”

On their way to capture the Snorlax, Mitchell told Lozano that another Pokémon had appeared — this time it was a Togetic. They prioritized catching the Snorlax before continuing on to capture the Togetic.

After Gomez reviewed the patrol unit’s dashcam footage, his discovery went up the ladder and led to the misconduct investigation that would result in the terminations.

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The officers’ lawyer, Greg Yacoubian, told the Washington Post the officers were disappointed the court found their firings justified, adding that they haven’t ruled out appealing their case in the state’s Supreme Court.

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