Pokemon GO is a growing global phenomenon being credited for bringing friends and communities together, setting off spontaneous mass-gatherings and even leading to some startling discoveries. But, as is to be expected from a mobile game that encourages players to explore obscure regions of their own neighborhood, real-world dangers do exist too.
Concerns about unsafe terrain, trespassing and other issues have become an issue for Pokemon Go players amidst the hit Nintendo game's otherwise mega-positive hype. Now, what many would consider a Pokemon GO nightmare-scenario has come close to unfolding in Florida - where a man has admitted to firing a handgun at two teenagers playing the game near his house.
Confirmed to ABC News by Flagler County, FL Sheriff's Office spokesman James Troiano, an unnamed local homeowner claims to have been awakened around 1:30 am on Saturday, July 17, by the sounds of two teenagers who had parked on the street outside his house. It was later revealed they were playing Pokemon GO (currently the most-downloaded mobile game in U.S. history), which tasks players with traveling to points on a map via GPS to capture randomly-spawning video game creatures and collect necessary items.
The man has admitted to having procured a handgun and approaching the vehicle, which Troiano says he (the unnamed man) then fired "several shots" at as it sped away. According to The Orlando Sentinel, the gunman claims that he first confronted the car (at gunpoint) from the front and had to dodge it as it drove away, and that he initially suspected that the teenagers may have robbed his home when he heard one ask "Did you get anything?" According to the would-be victims, they had actually been attempting to capture two Pokemon, Marowak and Tauros, listed as being somewhere in the vicinity.
Thankfully, no one was reported to have been injured, and the gunman reported the incident to police himself. However, the car and the two boys (one 19 years-old, the other 16) were not identified until one of their mothers called police after discovering bullet holes and a flat fire the next morning - believed to have been from the shots fired during the encounter. While the game is designed around foot travel, pairs of players using cars to reach further-off destinations has become a common practice. According to authorities, an investigation into the incident is now underway.
While Pokemon GO makes an explicit point of entreating users to be aware of their surroundings, most early safety advice had focused on not stumbling on unsafe terrain or walking into traffic. While the likelihood of being shot at while, effectively, undertaking a scavenger hunt may not be an immediate worry in some territories, the high rate of gun ownership in many parts of the United States render it a more plausible concern in other areas. As strange as it may sound, this incident could even result in Pokemon GO being drawn into the U.S.'s ongoing national debate over gun safety and rights.
We'll bring you more Pokemon GO-related news as it becomes available.