By Ava-joye Burnett

BALTIMORE (WJZ) — Baltimore Police are warning Pokemon Go players to take better stock of their surroundings after an extremely close call caught on a police officer’s body camera.

A driver told investigators he was distracted by the popular game when his car careened into a patrol car parked in the 2900 block of Eastern Avenue about 3:30 a.m. Monday, narrowly missing two officers on the sidewalk.

The officers had just wrapped up a call for service when the Toyota RAV4 came barreling through and slammed into one of their patrol cars. “That’s what I get for playing this dumb a** game,” the driver can be heard telling the officer, who ran to the scene after witnessing the collision.

“It’s a game, but it’s not a game when you’re behind the wheel,” Baltimore Police spokesman T.J. Smith said at a news conference Tuesday. “This could have easily, easily been a tragedy.”

In a nutshell, the game is a virtual scavenger hunt in which players track down characters using their phone’s GPS and camera features. But a number of incidents have made headlines here in Baltimore and across the nation in recent weeks, forcing authorities to remind players to pay attention to where they’re going and what they’re doing.

In San Diego, two players walked straight off a cliff, completely oblivious of their surroundings. In Pittsburgh, a girl was struck by a car while crossing the street and her mother immediately pinned the blame on the game. In Palm Coast, Florida, a homeowner opened fire at two players traipsing through his yard — neither was hurt.

Here in Baltimore, Monday’s crash marks the latest incident to draw negative attention to the smartphone app. No one was hurt in the wreck, but the driver will be charged.

The incident struck a nerve with local players, who were stunned to learn of the driver’s flirtation with disaster and what could have ended in tragedy for two law enforcement officers.

“That’s dumb to be playing it (while driving), that’s kind of like texting and driving,” said Nicole Lewis, who plays the game. “It’s actually kind of worse because it’s more involved.”

Smith also warned people to be careful about letting the game make them a target for criminals, after game-related thefts in College Park and Baltimore County.

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Ava-joye Burnett

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