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A California appeals court has upheld the firing of two Los Angeles police officers who shirked a call about an active robbery to play Pokémon Go.
Louis Lozano and Eric Mitchell were fired for ignoring the call to respond to an April 2017 robbery at a mall in the Baldwin Hills community.
When questioned about the incident by LAPD Sgt. Jose Gomez that evening, the men claimed not to have heard the call, according to court documents filed Friday. However, an in-car recording of their conversation revealed that they had heard the call, spoke about it and decided not to respond, court records show.
“Aw, screw it,” Lozano reportedly said after a discussion about the call. Five minutes later, Mitchell allegedly told Lozano that a Pokemon character known as a Snorlax had popped up nearby.
For about the next 20 minutes, the officers could be heard on the in-car recording discussing Pokémon as they drove to different locations where the virtual creatures apparently appeared on their mobile phones, court documents said.
After capturing the Snorlax, the officers then traveled to another location to capture another Pokemon, known as a Togetic.
“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,’” court documents said.
The men appealed the decision to fire them, arguing that the video evidence of their private conversation was inadmissible and that they were improperly questioned about the incident without the opportunity to have a legal representative present.
The court upheld the decision to fire them, characterizing their behavior as “egregious misconduct” that justified the use of the recordings. It also rejected their claim that their rights were violated during the questioning, saying that it was in the normal course of Gomez’s duty to investigate the matter.
Greg Yacoubian, an attorney for the officers, said they “obviously are disappointed” in the ruling and were “considering how to proceed,” the Los Angeles Times reported.