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Fired LAPD Officer Said 'Screw It,' Ditched Robbery Call For Pokémon Go

Two panels. On the left, a smartphone screen shows a purple circular Pokémon creature emitting gas on a crosswalk. On the right, four LAPD police officers stand in the street with their backs turned.
Left: The Pokémon Go app interface. Right: LAPD officers
AFP via Getty Images)
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It was pervasive like pine sap. It stuck and spread, holding on for dear life for a fleeting summer that feels, in hindsight, like a fever dream. Its acolytes arched their heads down into their augmented realities searching for mythical creatures only visible to true believers. It even made its way into the political realm, uttered in an effort to rally support behind an attempt to ascend to the highest office in the land.

The aforementioned “it,” is, of course, Pokémon Go. (What, did you think it was some kind of cult?)

The popular gaming app had its hooks so deep in two LAPD officers that it, ultimately, cost them their jobs, according to a Los Angeles County Superior Court decision upholding their terminations. 

The Day In Question

LAPD Southwest Division officers, Louis Lozano and Eric Mitchell, were on beat patrol in the Crenshaw Corridor on April 15, 2017, when a call went in about a possible robbery in progress at a nearby Macy’s at the Crenshaw Mall.

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LAPD Cpt. Darnell Davenport was en route to another call who could see the Macy’s from where his vehicle was stopped ultimately took the mall call after seeing a squad car parked in an alley, not heading toward the nearby scene. Davenport then called in that he would respond to the robbery.

“[After calling in that he would respond] the Captain saw the police car start to back up down the alley, then negotiate a left-hand turn to leave the area,” read the court document. “[Sgt. Jose Gomez] attempted to radio [Mitchell and Lozano’s] unit and requested they respond to the Crenshaw Mall to assist the Captain, but he received no response."

Later in the evening, Gomez, who checked in on Lozano and Mitchell’s status from the watch commander’s office during the robbery, requested to meet with the officers. Lozano and Mitchell explained that they were Code 6, conducting a field investigation and away from their car.

Both Lozano and Mitchell said they did not hear the request for backup in regard to the robbery at the mall when pressed on it by Gomez, as the ambient noise in Leimert Park overpowered the sound of their radios.

“At that point, my understanding was that the [robbery] call wasn’t heard because they were at the park,” Gomez said in testimony for the officers’ disciplinary hearing. “And like I said, I could not dispute that.”

The interaction didn’t leave Gomez satisfied, however, so he went back and reviewed the officers’ Digital In-Car Video System (DICVS) footage, and found that things weren’t quite as Mitchell and Lozano portrayed them.

Some excerpts from the recording:

  • After it was revealed which captain was nearby to respond to the robbery

    • OFFICER LOZANO: “I don’t want to be his help.” 
  • After a second attempt was made to contact the pair about the robbery call

    • OFFICER MITCHELL: “It’s up to you. Whatever you think. I don’t want them to think we’re not paying attention to the radio.” 
    • OFFICER LOZANO: “ Aw, screw it.” 

The appellate court decision also asserted that the officers were playing Pokémon Go throughout the day, and, notably, immediately after ignoring the robbery call.

Gotta Catch Em’ All On The Department’s Dime

Highlighted in the court decision was a transcript of the extensive search for Pokémon over the next half hour or so.

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Lozano and Mitchell’s hunt, lightly edited for clarity:

“At approximately 6:09 p.m. (just five minutes after Officer Lozano said “screw it” to checking in with communications about the robbery call), Officer Mitchell alerted Lozano that ‘Snorlax’ ‘just popped up” at ‘46th and Leimert….On their way to the Snorlax location, Officer Mitchell alerted Officer Lozano that ‘a Togetic just popped up…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.”

Disciplinary Hearing, Termination

Lozano and Mitchell faced five counts of misconduct in an LAPD board of rights disciplinary hearing, namely:

  • Failing to respond to a robbery-in-progress call; 
  • Making misleading statements to Sgt. Gomez when asked why they did not hear the radio;
  • Failing to respond over the radio when their unit was called;
  • Failing to handle an assigned radio call; 
  • Playing Pokémon Go while on patrol in their police vehicle; 
  • Making false statements to Detective McClanahan during a complaint investigation

The board of rights panel unanimously found the officers guilty on all counts but the third. The Chief of Police then discharged Lozano and Mitchell per the board’s recommendation.

On Jan. 7, 2021, Los Angeles Superior Court Judge Mary Strobel denied the officers’ appeal of the ruling.

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