Poke-Hoax: The Pokemon Go Church Murder

I love everything about a good gaming urban legend; how they begin, how they spread and how they develop and grow over time.  Usually the kinds of legends I investigate have been developing chapters over a period of decades, in some cases 40 years or more. The extraction of factual evidence is a painstaking process requiring the peeling back of each layer of the story until you get as close as you can to the actual moment the event was first reported. It’s a process that can take months, even years in some cases if the trail is cold and/or has had a considerable amount of artistic license woven into it over time. Polybius for instance, the long-standing urban legend about a mind-controlling video game from The 80s, took me six months to crack. The Berzerk Deaths, another 80s legend, took me over a year to decode. I absolutely enjoy performing what I refer to as “long haul research” and am always on the lookout for topics in gaming history that have never been deeply examined before.

So I was rather surprised  when I found myself intrigued by the numerous recently hatched and often poorly assembled rumors on the internet surrounding Niatic’s Pokemon Go, the phone  game ala thinly veiled marketing app causing an unprecedented sensation across the world right now. Rumors of death and mayhem while playing the game are rampant, even anticipated, with scores of journalists with trembling fingers hovering over keyboards waiting for the first official body bag of a player to be confirmed. But that hasn’t happened. What has happened, though, are various sophomoric reports of ghostly apparitions, grave site and bedroom visitations by Pikachu and even more reports oddly reminiscent of The Polybius Hoax, claiming the app is a government PSYOP.  The usual hoo-ha. Nothing too new or remotely interesting.

However the rumor that caught my attention is one that grew very quickly and is now believed as being true by a great number of people, including those willing to throw money and sympathy at its would-be victim, a man who undoubtedly perpetrated a most effective although thoroughly transparent hoax, The Pokemon Go Church Murder.

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For three days this week social media was abuzz regarding a Beaumont, Texas “Uber driver”, Alex Ramirez, who alleges he witnessed the aftermath of a possible homicide –not the actual murder itself although he later claims he did– while playing Pokemon Go, in the early morning hours of  Saturday, July 9, 2016. What happened that night, as the story goes, affected him emotionally, cost him his job as an Uber Driver, his only source of income, and prompt trolls to attack him online and supporters to raise thousands of dollars via Go Fund Me to comfort him in his time of need. His YouTube subscribers surged from 4000 viewers to 150,000. His Twitter rose to 13K followers. This once “unknown YouTuber” was both sympathized with and highly criticized by others over his “unfortunate experience” as he delivered tearful interviews that plucked heartstrings recounting his tale of horror that resonated deep within the human pathos for suspense and ruin.

Not bad for a night’s work, right?
Well, that all depends on how you look at it.

Fact Check

Ramirez states that, while out driving around Beaumont and streaming his Pokemon Go progress live on YouTube via AlexRamiGaming, he entered the parking lot of Trinity United Methodist Church, located at 3430 Harrison Avenue,  at approximately 1:44 a.m., pulled up behind what he describes as “a black Chevy Silverado” parked in the lot, then saw a dead body falling from the passenger side of the vehicle onto the ground as an unidentified male suspect opened the door.   He quickly leaves the scene in a panic, calls police at 1:47 a.m. and reports that he just saw “a murder” and that the suspect is now “chasing” him in the black Silvarado. He makes no description of either the subject or of the appearance of the body falling from the truck other than the subject was male and the victim was female. That to me is odd.

3585694-Scared-man-in-old-comic-book-style--Stock-VectorSudden fear leaves an imprint on memory. A limp body falling from a passenger seat would only register in your mind that death had occurred if other factors were present to indicate that;  i.e. blood, obvious trauma, awkward and unnatural positioning when falling. Ramirez makes no descriptive account of this and gave no immediate description to police during his frantic yet strange 911 call.

Given that Beaumont is listed as being one of the top ten most dangerous cities in Texas, where your chances of being the victim of a crime are 1 in 17, the possibility of seeing either a crime in progress or evidence of one afterwards is, indeed, highly probable. But due to the fact the initial report of this alleged incident was streamed live, with Ramirez’ reactions both being captured in audio as well as his “flight pattern” being recorded via Pokemon Go’s GPS playfield tracking and streamed live, I see some concerns about the validity of his report that other media sites have missed. Some big ones.

Using his own recorded live stream uploaded by Reaction World for analysis, I’ve tracked his “flight pattern” using time stamp methods from the moment he reacts vocally to a crime (green checkpoint) and the minutes he was “chased” by the alleged suspect, ending near the moment he abruptly shut  his stream off (red X mark). The trip actually ends a moment later but for clarity the map couldn’t be made that small to show the whole area.

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Upon seeing the body fall from the car, he puts his car in reverse, turns around and  leaves the church parking lot by taking a left onto 19th. He then continues down to the end of 19th before taking a right onto Harrison Avenue, a residential street with relatively low traffic by day and little to no traffic at night. He then travels 4 blocks, is detained for 12 seconds by a traffic stop of some sort, takes a left onto N 23rd Avenue, travels another approximate 4 blocks to Calder Avenue, where he takes right and continues down Calder until it turns into Phelan….and then stream goes dead. The journey of 1.5 miles/2.41 km from the point of the alleged “crime scene” takes  3 minutes and 13 seconds. Estimated average speed of Ramirez vehicle “flight”: 25-35 mph. This too is odd.

That anyone who just witnessed a dead body falling from a car would choose to leave a scene at such a leisurely pace is unlikely, especially at the moment when he claims to observe he’s being “chased” by the suspect. He never accelerates to increase distance between himself and his pursuer. He just coasts along.  Also his choice to turn right onto Harrison Avenue and travel down a low-traffic residential street rather than take a left, onto a more populated I-10 Frontage Road leading to the heavily police-patrolled Calder Avenue, is curious as well. He even mentions the Olive Garden restaurant and the Sonic on I-10 and Calder because he is familiar with the area regardless of him stating he’s not familiar with it on the video. He’s not only familiar with it, he’s comfortable. He’s been here before.

This isn’t the behavior of someone fearful and fleeing a scene in fear of their life. This is not the behavior of a man being pursued by someone he believes to be a murderer. This is the behavior of someone who wants to remain in the area and chase Pokemon for the delight of his viewers and bask in the attention of a dramatic moment I feel was entirely concocted.

Who Is Alex Ramirez?
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Well, actually…he’s an interesting fellow. Unbeknownst to many people in the press who acted in support of his story,  I discovered Ramirez has an extensive history regarding creating unabashed drama for the sake of  views and attention at the expense of others, and not just police as he did in The Pokemon Go Church Murder Hoax, and is no stranger to “showboating” to reach his unquestionable goals of generating views. He went to great lengths to conceal his once infamous identity on his new channel AlexRamiGaming and is most likely, as his confession reveals, a bit uncomfortable that some people have connected the dots between Netotigr and AlexRamiGaming. In fact, they are the same person.

Netotigr is the Mortal Kombat/MKX streamer who was once a popular (now banned) Twitch TV personality and competitor known for his interesting “combos” and using emotional outbursts, wailing screams and sobbing meltdowns for dramatic entertainment effect. Netotigr is none other than Alex Ramirez. Yes, the same fellow who staged The Pokemon Go Church Murder Hoax and generated so much attention and donations of sympathy, are one in the same.

Apparently Ramirez was looking for a fresh start as a streamer seeking to leave the drama of competition and trolls behind him.  He changed his tag and assumed a new one. No problem with that. I’ve seen numerous people do the same thing and in many situations I don’t blame them. Gaming, and especially competitive gaming in a live-stream environment, can become socially problematic if not downright hostile depending on the situation and the popularity of the player.  However staging a hoax that involves a using the police as bait for entertainment is probably not the best way to jump start your new site, name and/or persona for obvious reasons. Plus as engaging as Ramirez is at times, it wasn’t really needed. Like anyone who has some degree of success doing what they love, he has haters but he also has dedicated fans. He didn’t need to do this.

One could argue that using drama and showboat techniques, like assuming a character or staging exciting and sudden emotionally charged moments on-stream, are the hallmarks of a professional entertainer   -and I would agree. Gaming, and especially live gaming, is boring without these personalities and Ramirez is definitely an entertainer. However, when the schtick crosses over into false reports to police and seeks to gain financial benefit from followers defrauded while under the impression that the victim has been greatly affected by circumstances beyond his control, that crosses the line of decency. Ramirez has yet to come clean on the hoax, or even admit that maybe his perceptions of seeing a “murder” were incorrect. It seems, for now, he’s sticking to his story that he saw a murder and was chased by the suspect although there’s absolute zero evidence of either.

The Go Fund Me account set up in his honor was reaching 10K by the time people began doubting his story. Even so, his story is still believed by numerous people, media ports and subscribers who have lent caring support and possibly money to him, oblivious to the fact that this is all a farce. He has recently petitioned for Patreon support as well.

As of this writing the Beaumont Texas police have stated that The Pokemon Go Church Murder is “a scam and a hoax”.

The Go Fund Me account in support of Ramirez has been suspended.

Ramirez is still driving around the State of Texas playing Pokemon Go from behind the wheel of his car.

Viva The American Dream…

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