Pokémon Go Memorializes Tamir Rice, 12 Year Old Shot by Cleveland Police

July 23, 2016, 4:23 PM UTC
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NEW YORK, NY - JULY 11: Sameer Uddin plays Pokemon Go on his smartphone outside of Nintendo's flagship store, July 11, 2016 in New York City. The success of Nintendo's new smartphone game, Pokemon Go, has sent shares of Nintendo soaring. (Photo by Drew Angerer/Getty Images)
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In a stark illustration of the potential for augmented reality to shape how we experience the world, Belt Magazine reports that the gazebo where 12 year old Tamir Rice was shot by police in 2014 is now a “Pokéstop” in Pokémon Go. And the text describing the site, known as the Cudell Gazebo, contradicts what is now the official version of that event.

“Community memorial for Tamir Rice, shot and killed by CPD officers who shot him in under 2s after breaking department policy regarding escalation of force,” reads the Pokéstop description.

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That was not the perspective of Cuyahoga County prosecutor Timothy J. McGinty, who in 2015 urged a grand jury to decline to bring charges against Timothy Loehmann, the officer who shot Rice. McGinty said Loehmann had reason to fear for his life and acted appropriately. That interpretation ultimately prevailed, and Loehmann faced no charges. Rice’s family accused McGinty of “abusing and manipulating the grand jury process.”

Soon after, demonstrators gathered at the Cudell Gazebo, and in the following months, the site became a makeshift memorial for Rice. There is currently no official acknowledgment of the event at the site. But during last week’s RNC in Cleveland, Belt reporters counted five visitors to the site in a 30 minute window, all “engrossed in their phones.”

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Pokémon Go maker Niantic Labs gathered data for what are now Pokéstops through a mix of crowdsourcing methods, starting during the creation of the studio’s previous Augmented Reality game, Ingress. Ingress thus shares a lot of content with Pokémon Go, including, apparently, the Cudell Gazebo text. A commenter on Belt’s story with the username “Jamie” claims to have written the entry for Ingress, motivated in part by a desire to preserve history.

“The community has been repeatedly lied to about what happened,” they write. “Memorials are built in the hope people will remember. The events that ended Tamir Rice’s life are something that I worry will be forgotten.”


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