Despite any negative attention that Pokémon Go may have riled up since its release on July 6, it’s had its positive moments, too.
The incredibly popular app, leading millions to explore their communities in search of the virtual creatures, recently brought Marine Corps veterans Seth Ortega and Javier Soch to a playground in Fullerton, Calif. A bug caused the game to freeze, forcing the pair to look up from their phones. It was then they saw Jacob Kells, a man wanted for attempted murder in Monterey County.
“It’s not what we were expecting our day to turn out with,” Ortega told the Los Angeles Times. “The game, when it loads up on the screen, says to be cautious of your surroundings. Strongly follow that advice.”
Ortega and Soch arrived at the park at around 9 a.m., and after an hour of catching Pokémon, noticed a strange man who appeared to be scaring a woman and her children. They approached the man, who asked for a cigarette.
“I said, I don’t have smokes but there’s a police station nearby. If you go, they can point you to resources,” Ortega said.
The man continued to act strangely, and after Ortega and Soch saw him brush up against one of the young boys, the two trailed him.
“We kept our distance. We didn’t want to alert the guy and escalate the situation,” Soch said.
The mother and her children walked over to a nearby park, where the man followed. When he grabbed one of the children by the foot, Ortega and Soch jumped into action.
Get off the firing line, Pikachu! That’s a safety violation! pic.twitter.com/WilmXFBHlf
— U.S. Marines (@USMC) July 11, 2016
“We see the gentleman go approach them again, at this point, me and my roommate start walking across the street and the gentleman actually walks up and touches one of the children, one of the boys, his toe, and starts walking his way up to the knee,” Ortega said. “At this point I’m running across the street and a gentleman who was walking down the street does the same thing.”
Ortega removed the man from the area and Soch stayed with the others at the park while the mother called 911.
According to Fullerton Police Sgt. Kathryn Hamel, Kells was arrested on suspicion of child annoyance before officers found a warrant for his arrest on attempted murder charges, possession of a stolen vehicle, and assaulting a peace officer, lodged against him at the county level. Now being held in the Orange County Jail, Kells will soon be moved to Northern California for his trial.
While Ortega and Soch have Pokémon Go to thank for leading them to the right place at the right time, they can also credit their Marine training for providing them the right decisions when they really counted.
“If I hadn’t looked over to my left and seen this guy who looks out of place, I could have missed it,” Soch said. “The best thing I can say: Remind yourself that you are not in the phone playing the game. Look around and be more aware.”
There’s no denying the popularity of Pokémon Go, even among service members, but several institutions have asked for more common sense and less virtual activity on their grounds. Follow this link to read more about how the Arlington National Cemetery and National Holocaust Museum have been dealing with inconsiderate Pokémon hunters.Whizzco