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.
#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.