An Iowa State University football player was playing Pokemon Go in the park near his home when he turned around to see four police officers pointing their guns at him. The Iowa City Police Department released the body camera footage Wednesday, showing another case of a phenomenon that is not uncommon: Pokemon Go players having run-ins with police.
Faith Ekakitie, like millions of others, is pursuing the humble goal of catching them all. Unfortunately, he was in the wrong place at the wrong time, fitting the exact description of a bank robbery suspect police believed was in the vicinity. In a period where police violence against black people is on the rise, Ekakitie, who is black, said in a Facebook post he was thankful the situation did not end with him getting hurt.
"I am thankful to be alive, and I do now realize, that it very well could have been me, a friend of mine, my brother, your cousin, your nephew etc," Ekakitie wrote. "Misunderstandings happen all the time and just like that things can go south very quickly."
After police in Iowa City lowered the weapons they had pointed at Ekakitie, the interaction was polite, and followed procedure. He was searched, patted down, and released within five minutes.
Pokemon Go is the latest installment of the widely popular Pokemon franchise, using augmented reality to make the world seem full of Pokemon. Using GPS tracking and Google Maps technology, players must walk throughout town to find the creatures, battle other users, and find supplies to help them level up. The game has caused a massive traffic jam in Central Park, and led users who were searching for the virtual creatures to find dead bodies instead, which has happened in San Diego, New Hampshire, and Wyoming.
In Baltimore, a driver crashed into a police cruiser while trying to catch Pokemon behind the wheel. In Ohio, numerous people were given citations for trespassing. In Indonesia, a French man was arrested for trespassing on a military base. In Tampa Bay, police tried to clear 150 people out of a park that had closed hours earlier, and had to tase a player who refused to leave.
In addition to police detaining Pokemon trainers, they have also had to protect players from angry people trying to attack them for looking for the creatures in their neighborhood.
Compared to the 75 million people who have downloaded Pokemon Go since its July 5 release, these incidents are far and few between. Yet, some are highlighting the dangers of playing the game as a black man, specifically when it comes to looking suspicious in the eyes of police.
Ekakitie ended his Facebook post emphasizing any game that requires you to go into the real world means you have to confront real world problems.
"I would like the thank the Iowa City Police department for handling a sensitive situation very professionally," he wrote. "I would also urge people to be more aware of their surroundings because clearly I wasn't."
You can follow Adam Hamze on Twitter:@adamhamz