Lozano and Mitchell were each charged with official misconduct and kicked off the force, after video footage from their squad car showed them ignoring a call about an ongoing robbery to continue playing the augmented-reality mobile game.
The officers had appealed their firing and argued that the footage was improperly used as evidence in the investigation that led to their dismissal. On Friday, an appellate court denied their appeal, finding that the men had been fired with good reason.
Louis Lozano, Eric Mitchell Play Game On Duty
According to court filings, partners Lozano and Mitchell were playing Pokemon Go while working a patrol beat in LA’s Crenshaw neighborhood in April 2017.
It was a busy day in Crenshaw for LAPD, the court found — there were more 911 calls placed that day than there were available squad cars to respond to them, when officers were notified about a robbery in progress at a nearby Macy’s.
LAPD Captain Darnell Davenport said he was driving through the area responding to a different incident when he heard the call about the ongoing robbery. He told the court he saw Lozano and Mitchell’s vehicle parked just around the corner from the store, but that the squad car did not appear to heed the call for assistance.
Soon after, Davenport said he saw the squad car back away and leave the area inexplicably.
Another officer, Sergeant Gomez, was at precinct headquarters and said he saw that Lozano and Mitchell were right near the crime scene, so he radioed them to assist at Macy’s.
According to court documents, the officers simply responded “no,” and did not make further contact with dispatchers.
Gomez said he met with Lozano and Mitchell later to ask what happened. The officers told him that they didn’t hear the call. Still dissatisfied, Gomez reportedly reviewed the footage from inside their squad car and found that the pair were busy playing Pokemon Go as the robbery unfolded.
The video, court documents reveal, showed Lozano and Mitchell hearing the call for assistance and debating whether to respond. Lozano eventually said “ah, screw it,” and they continued to ignore repeated calls for help.
Minutes later, the officers were heard planning to capture a Snorlax and a Togetic — virtual creatures in the mobile game — while Captain Davenport and other first responders were handling the robbery at Macy’s.
Launched in 2016, Pokemon Go is a GPS-based cellphone game in which players travel to real-world locations to “capture” and do battle with digital monsters.
Court Upholds Firings
Lozano and Mitchell were fired after a police oversight board reviewed the footage and found their “unprofessional and embarrassing” conduct had “violated the trust of the public” and “reflected poorly” on the department as a whole.
They appealed their dismissal. In court, their lawyers argued that the footage from their squad car was improperly used as evidence against them, saying that their conversation was private, and that they didn’t know they were being recorded.
LA County Superior Court Judge Mary H. Strobel had previously ruled that their firing was justified, but Lozano and Mitchell appealed again. On Friday, the appellate court also upheld their firing — finding that Sergeant Gomez was acting well within his duties when he reviewed the squad car footage.