Armed robbers used the game Pokémon Go to lure victims to an isolated trap in Missouri, police reported on Sunday.
At about 2am in O’Fallon, Missouri, officers responded to a robbery report that led them to four people, all local residents aged 16 to 18, in a black BMW in a CVS parking lot. The occupants tried to discard a handgun out of the car when an officer approached, said Sgt Bill Stringer. The officer then identified the four people as suspects of similar armed robberies described in St Louis and St Charles counties.
The adult suspects were charged with first degree robbery, a felony, and had bond set at $100,000 cash, Stringer said.
Stringer added that police believe the suspects used the phone app, which directs users to capture imaginary creatures superimposed onto the real world, to tempt players into secluded areas where they could be easily robbed. At a certain level in the game, he noted, players can congregate at local landmarks to join teams and battle.
“Using the geolocation feature,” Stringer said, “the robbers were able to anticipate the location and level of seclusion of unwitting victims.”
In a separate statement, a department spokesperson added: “you can add a beacon to a pokestop to lure more players. Apparently they were using the app to locate [people] standing around in the middle of a parking lot or whatever other location they were in.”
A statement from police quoted from a news article to explain the allure of the game: “Seeing a Pikachu on the sidewalk in front of you is a fan’s digital dream come true.”
The department added a warning, however. “If you use this app (or other similar type apps) or have children that do we ask you to please use caution when alerting strangers of your future location.”
Pokémon Go warns players to keep aware of their surroundings during their virtual treasure hunt, but after only a few days since its release it has already led people into a string of bizarre incidents. People have ended up in hospitals after chasing nonexistent animals into hazardous spots, and schools, a state agency and Australian police have warned people not to break the law or endanger themselves while “Pokemoning”. The game has also led wanderers to at least one home misidentified as a church, a venue the app considers a public space.
In Wyoming on Friday, the game led a teenager to a dead body in a river. “I just got up and went for my little walk, a walk to catch Pokémon,” 19-year-old Shayla Wiggens toldlocal KCWY news. The pursuit led her to a highway bridge over the river, where she jumped a fence to approach the water. She spotted two deer near the water’s edge, and then a black shirt and pants – a corpse lying prone in the water, 6ft to her left.
The Fremont County sheriff’s office said in a statement that it was investigating the death, but that they do not suspect homicide. “The death appears to be accidental in nature,” said undersheriff Ryan Lee. Though the water is only 3ft deep where the body was found, investigators said the man possibly drowned.
Wiggins said the discovery of a corpse would not deter her from returning to the game. “I might go get a water Pokémon,” she told CNN. “I’m going to try.”