LOS ANGELES (CBSLA) — Two former Los Angeles Police Department officers lost their appeal challenging their termination after they failed to respond to a robbery in 2017 because they were playing the mobile videogame Pokémon Go.
"This case matters because is important to hold the Department accountable regarding its compliance with its own rules and policies," said Gregory G.Yacoubian, the attorney representing the two officers. "Additionally, it's important that the Department be held accountable to adhere to the law with regard to how it conducts its internal investigations."
According to court documents, former officers Luis Lozano and Eric Mitchell were fired from the department after their cruiser's dashcam caught them playing Pokémon Go instead of assisting their supervisor's call for assistance during a robbery at the Crenshaw Mall.
Lozano and Mitchell said the City of Los Angeles broke the law by recording the former officers without their permission and believe that it violated their protections outline in the Public Safety Officers Procedural Bill of Rights Act.
On Saturday, April 15, 2017, the two former officers were assigned to the Crenshaw Corridor and Leimert Park area when the robbery in progress call came in, according to court documents. While en-route to a homicide scene, the two petitioners' commanding officer, Captain Darnell Davenport, responded after he heard a radio call claiming there were multiple suspects robbing a Macy's in the Crenshaw Mall.
Nearby the Macy's at the time of the call, Davenport spotted a police car parked in an alley on his right. Since he did not see the police car react to the robbery call, he decided to respond to it himself while also notifying dispatch that he was going to the scene. In court documents, according to Davenport, he then saw the police car "back up down the alley," then leave the area after making a left turn.
The watch commander at the time, Sergeant Jose Gomez, confirmed that Lozano and Mitchell's vehicle was supposed to be stationed at the Crenshaw Corridor, according to the watch commander's board. Gomez attempted to contact the two former officers, while also requesting they respond to the robbery call and be Davenport's backup but received no response.
When Gomez later reached out to dispatch regarding the former officers' response. Dispatch said the two officers didn't respond.
Gomez later questioned the two officers about the incident to which Mitchell said he did not hear the call for backup and Lozano said he heard Davenport responding to the Crenshaw Mall but did not hear the call for backup. The two officers said they could not hear the radio because of the loud music playing at a park.
Gomez excused Lozano and Mitchell but was unsatisfied with their responses and decided to review their cruiser's dashcam. The footage from the camera not only confirmed that the two officers were in the cruiser that Davenport saw, but also that they did in fact hear the call. The two former officers then discussed if they should help Davenport before backing into an alley, at which time Lozano said "I don't want to be [Davenport's] help.
The footage also recorded them saying that "Snorlax," a Pokémon, appeared at a nearby intersection. The officers discussed Pokémon as they drove around hoping to catch the numerous Pokémon in the area.
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