Image: Jason Koebler
I thought it was weird that there were bomb dogs spread all throughout the Pokemon World Championships in Boston this weekend. I thought little of it, until I checked the news this afternoon: Two would-be competitors allegedly planned to shoot the place up, according to the Boston Police Department.
On Saturday, Boston police arrested 27-year-old James Stumbo and 18-year-old Kevin Norton, two pro-scene Pokemon trading card game players who attempted to get into the Pokemon World Championships Thursday after posting a threat on Facebook. Police found a shotgun, an AR-15 rifle, a few hundred bullets, and a hunting knife in their car.
The public was not informed about the arrests until Sunday afternoon, after the arrests were made. I arrived Friday morning and the tournament continued as normal: Media representatives didn’t tell me about the threats. Both Stumbo and Norton were scheduled to compete in the annual tournament, according to Pokemon’s official World Championship site. Obviously there's no need to cause unnecessary fear, but a Facebook post made by Stumbo and commented on by Norton shows that there was at least a specific threat that at least some of the thousands of families there would have preferred to have known about.
Image: Boston Police Department
“Prior to the event this weekend, our community of players made us aware of a security issue,” the Pokemon Company International said in a statement. “We gathered information and gave it as soon as possible to the authorities at the John B. Hynes Veterans Memorial Convention Center who acted swiftly and spearheaded communication with the Boston Police Department. Due to quick action, the potential threat was resolved. The Pokémon Company International takes the safety of our fans seriously and will continue to ensure proper security measures are a priority.”
The Pokemon Company did not have any further comment and would not say why the public wasn’t informed about the threat.
On Wednesday, Stumbo posted this picture and caption on a Facebook group called “Mayhem Pokemon Crew,” which presumably is what Pokemon community members sent to Boston Police. On that post, a person named Joey Faux said “Good luck!,” and Norton responded “With killing the competition?”
According to Boston PD, police executed a search warrant on the pair’s car Saturday afternoon and arrested them on charges of unlawful possession of a firearm, unlawful possession of ammunition, and other firearm related charges.
Stumbo won the Nebraska state Pokemon championship this year—here’s an interview with him about his deck. Boston police say that both men are from Iowa, however Stumbo competed in the Nebraska state tournament and Norton competed in the Missouri tournament, according to results posted by the Charizard Lounge, a Pokemon trading card game news website.
Kevin Norton's Facebook profile picture. Image: Facebook
It's worth noting that merely qualifying for the World Championships is an extremely difficult task, requiring players to navigate regional, state, and national-level tournaments before earning an invitation. So, it's pretty bizarre that the two would manage to qualify and then threaten the tournament, which was open to the public to attend.
All weekend, security seemed extra tight; I’ve been to gaming conventions before where there was little or no police presence. As I mentioned, at this year’s World Championships, police were everywhere, on each floor of the convention center and in all of the major conference rooms. The roughly 3,000 attendees were screened and bags were checked, dogs patrolled every area. At the time, that seemed like a heavy response, but that’s because we were kept totally in the dark about any threats. We’ll have more as more information becomes available.