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US police officers fired for hunting Pokemon instead of responding to robbery

LOS ANGELES (AFP) - Two US police officers who went off to hunt for Pokemon instead of responding to a robbery have been fired.

Mr Louis Lozano and Mr Eric Mitchell cruised the streets searching for fantastic creatures in the augmented reality smartphone game Pokemon Go, documents show, bagging a relatively rare Snorlax, as well as a difficult-to-trap Togetic - but no criminals.

In-car recording of their conversation revealed that they had heard the call for help at the Los Angeles department store, but decided instead to drive off.

"Officer Mitchell alerted Lozano that Snorlax 'just popped up'," legal documents relating to their dismissal show.

"For approximately the next 20 minutes, the (recording) captured (the two officers) discussing Pokemon as they drove to different locations where the virtual creatures apparently appeared on their mobile phones."

The Los Angeles police officers snagged the Snorlax and then turned their attention to a Togetic - which proved to be a little tricky to subdue.

Both men were charged with multiple counts of misconduct, and admitted failing to respond to the robbery call during the incident in April 2017, but denied they had been playing Pokemon Go.

The pair insisted in disciplinary hearings that they had merely been discussing the game, and challenged Los Angeles city's dismissal.

California's court of appeal, however, did not believe their explanations, and upheld their firings.

Pokemon Go took the mid-2010s by storm, with millions around the world glued to their smartphones in the hunt for fantastical creatures.

In one of the first mainstream adoptions of augmented reality, players would look for round-eyed "pocket monsters" that would appear in the real world, if viewed on a smartphone screen.

Participants would use Pokeballs to capture the creatures, which were inspired by everything from mice to dragons, and then train them in Pokegyms to take part in battles.

Such was the popularity of the game at one point that several military installations felt the need to warn troops about the possible perils of playing on bases, including near runways.

Fans of the game were also blamed for causing traffic accidents, and at least one illegal border crossing was blamed on someone trying to "Catch 'em all".

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