Shake Shack Manager Sues NYPD Officers, Union Reps For Falsely Claiming His Business Sold Cops Poisoned Shakes

from the shake-(dead)weight dept

Last June, as anti-police brutality protests were sweeping across the nation following the killing of George Floyd by Minneapolis police officer Derek Chauvin, some NYPD officers claimed it was the public that was actually violent and abusive.

This supposed anti-police sentiment manifested itself — at least in this case — as “poisoned” milkshakes served to NYPD officers by a local Shake Shack.

The officers complained of “not feeling well” before being hospitalized and later released, the NYPD said in a statement to USA TODAY, and Shake Shack said via Twitter that it was “horrified” and working with police.

Now, were the roles reversed and officers accused of poisoning Shake Shack employees, law enforcement officials and their union reps would have been telling the public to wait until all the facts were in before passing judgment on the alleged poisoners.

But when it’s cops allegedly being poisoned, these officials couldn’t wait to start passing judgment. The Detectives Endowment Association sent out this tweet (since deleted):

Tonight, three of our fellow officers were intentionally poisoned by one or more workers at the Shake Shack at 200 Broadway in Manhattan.

Pat Lynch, the head of the Patrolmen’s Benevolent Association, sent out both a statement and this tweet (also since deleted):

#BREAKING When NYC police officers cannot even take meal without coming under attack, it is clear that environment in which we work has deteriorated to a critical level. We cannot afford to let our guard down for even a moment.

Less than six hours later, the facts were in.

New York City police determined there was nothing criminal afoot when three officers got Shake Shack milkshakes that might have been accidentally tainted with a cleanser.

Police came to the determination after “a thorough investigation,” NYPD Chief of Detectives Rodney Harrison said in a tweet early Tuesday.

The officers complained of feeling ill upon sipping the shakes and ended up going to a hospital. Harrison said they were fine.

I assume they’re all feeling well enough to handle a lawsuit. Because that’s what they’re getting. The manager of the falsely-accused Shake Shack, Marcus Gillum, is suing [PDF] a whole bunch of officers and union figureheads for defamation. The list of defendants is quite the read, with a few names bearing titles of ignobility:

PATRICK LYNCH, THE POLICE BENEVOLENT ASSOCIATION OF THE CITY OF NEW YORK, INC., DETECTIVES’ ENDOWMENT ASSOCIATION, INC., “Jane Doe NYPD Officer who ordered a Strawberry Shake”, “John Doe NYPD Officer who ordered a vanilla shake”, “Richard Roe NYPD OFFICER” who ordered a Cherry Shake”, “NYPD Sergeant who stated When Did You Add The Bleach”, “NYPD Sergeant Who called in ESU”, NYPD Officers JOHN DOE 1-20 (Names and Number of whom are unknown at this time), and CITY OF NEW YORK

Ah, yes, NYPD Sergeant Who Stated When Did You Add The Bleach, First of his Name, Lord of Lower Manhattan, Guardian of the Blue Line. Look at him now. He’s no more than a common defendant. And there will be no qualified immunity to protect him or the others sued. There’s no good faith exception that permits slander.

Of course, this still has to pass judicial scrutiny and motions to dismiss. And it could be argued the kneejerk responses issued by the police unions were based on the facts as they were understood at the time, even if said facts later turned out to be misunderstandings, if not actual falsehoods.

But there’s some interesting stuff in the lawsuit — some details that should have given the cops who thought they were poisoned some reasons to believe this had nothing to do with Shake Shack or its employees deliberately seeking to harm them.

Since the orders were placed using a mobile application, and not in person, Mr. GILLIAM and the other Shake Shack employees could not have known that police officers had placed the order.

Since the order was already packaged and waiting for pickup when Officers Strawberry Shake, Vanilla Shake and Cherry Shake arrived at the Shake Shack, Mr. GILLIAM and the other Shake Shack employees could not have “dosed” the milkshakes after they arrived.

But that was the accusation soon after the cops took possession of their order. These were serious allegations but the cops only treated it half-seriously. You’d think well-trained officers with all their expertise would know to preserve the crime scene. But, no. The alleged criminal evidence — the “poisoned” shakes — were tossed into an outside garbage can.

Following their disposal of the evidence, the cops decided to turn the Shake Shack into a crime scene (albeit one missing some very crucial evidence), seemingly for the sole purpose of keeping customers out and making the site appear dangerous.

The Sergeant then called in the Emergency Service Unit to set up a crime scene at Shake Shack.

LOL. This paragraph:

At approximately 9:20 p.m.—nearly two hours after Officers Strawberry Shake, Vanilla Shake and Cherry Shake first got the “sour” shakes— NYPD’s Emergency Service Unit arrived and set up a crime scene at the Shake Shack.

Which leads directly to this equally-hilarious image:

The discarded evidence was tested and cleared by the ESU. But by that point, the social media damage had already been done.

No qualified immunity defense for defamation. But qualified immunity will still be raised because there are also some Constitutional claims in the lawsuit. The manager of the Shake Shack was arrested by NYPD officers and questioned for more than an hour at the precinct station. He was finally released nearly three hours after officers detained him. There’s your Fourth and Fourteenth Amendment violations. And false arrest is also a state law claim, which might cause problems for these officers even if they’re given immunity for the Constitutional violations. There’s a First Amendment claim thrown in for good measure but it’s not really fleshed out in the lawsuit.

Whether or not this Shake Shack manager wins, this should hopefully remind cops it’s foolish to draw conclusions before all the facts are in. And while nearly anyone with an internet connection can drag a business and its operators through the mud based on bad information, only a special few — New York’s finest — can effect an arrest on top of it.

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Companies: shake shack

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Comments on “Shake Shack Manager Sues NYPD Officers, Union Reps For Falsely Claiming His Business Sold Cops Poisoned Shakes”

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Anonymous Coward says:

See Paul v. Davis (424 US 693) for whether or not defamation can give rise to a claim under 42 USC 1983. That case, from 1976, said it did not because there was no "constitutional harm" implicit in an officer defaming a "potential burglar."

The case did say that if one could prove a constitutional, secondary harm through defamation, such as loss of employment, then 42 USC 1983 would apply. Such a finding would also render Section 230 unconstitutional as it would recognize reputation as a constitutional right (the reason other countries don’t have 230).

This comment has been deemed insightful by the community.
Scary Devil Monastery (profile) says:

Re: Re: Sov Cot says what?

It’s hardly a "new" thing that Baghdad bob drags random cases into the debate while claiming that they "prove" a constitutional amendment, normal jurisprudens, or actual human rights should not apply.

I still recall back on Torrentfreak when he was trying to build an argument as to why copying games and music was such a vile crime society couldn’t afford burden of proof. I think even Heydrich would be hard-pressed to deliver as inhumane arguments as what he kept casually tossing into the ring.

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That One Guy (profile) says:

But remember, when it’s police being accused of something you have to wait until every last scrap of possible evidence is available until rendering judgement, as it’s unfair to judge an officer before then.

If this one gets tossed it will just show yet again how insane the legal system is and/or how utterly sheltered police are, because if accusing a store of intentionally and literally poisoning their customers doesn’t qualify as defamation I struggle to see how anything could. It would be one thing to claim that their shakes are so bad that you might as well drink poison but to state flat out that they were poisoned and intentionally so is just a bit more serious.

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Anonymous Coward says:

As we already know, data from over the internet is perhaps not so anonymous. For example, if 4 cops order milkshakes every day at 4pm, a strawberry, 2 chocolate, and a vanilla, and then arrive to pick it up, and then you see the order the next day, odds are good that it’s still 4 cops ordering it. It doesn’t matter that it’s prepackaged. Don’t buy that corporate "anonymized data" bullcrap.

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Anonymous Coward says:

Re: Re:

It’s NYC, population of 8 million+, do you really think that it’s that easy to determine the ordering characteristics of an insignificantly small group of cops? 4 cops in a population is 8 mil+ isn’t even a rounding error, it’s more akin to nothing but static.


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Anonymous Coward says:

Re: Re: Re: Re:

Corporate tool.

Where am I sticking up for a corporation?

Cops lie, cheat, steal, and are more criminal than the average citizen.

In this very specific case, there is nothing that can excuse the actions of these cops.

It was explicitly proven that nothing happened, the cops weren’t poisoned in any way, they lied about it, and why would anybody defend their actions. They are human garbage and nothing more, and should never wear a badge again.

That you feel the need to defend their actions, that makes you a bootlicker.

This comment has been deemed insightful by the community.
Anonymous Coward says:

Re: Re: Re: Re:

Corporate tool.

Really? You seriously think this is a matter of some corporation bullying these poor cops? What will you say when the cops offer a settlement, instead of taking this to a trial? What does it say for how solid their defense is, given their access to resources?

Blaming ‘corporations’ for <insert thing to bitch about> just makes you look like a one-trick pony. You guys really need to find another boogeyman because this shit is getting old.

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fairuse (profile) says:

But wait!

Restaurants are expected to be 100% clean. No problem, clean machine with bleach based cleaner and rinse. But some people may be sensitive to Sodium Hydroxide taste no matter how much water or neutralizer is used to make sure machine is ok to use.

I poured a sweet tea at my favorite BBQ shop – UGH, bleach! Manager tasted it, tastes fine.

I suggested he use different cleaner on machine with that much plastic. Poured Dr Pepper from soda machine.

As a kid I worked in tourist trap hell in Williamsburg VA, unbelievable what people accuse staff of. Cops were in the mood to bust somebody that day.

"There’s … way to bury a man, especially wearing that badge" -Sugar Bates (Banshee 207)

I admit not all cops are ready to take frustration out on anyone and make up a reason, enough do.

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