Shake Shack manager sues NYPD unions over false Manhattan milkshake poisoning claims

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Shake Shack

A sign hangs outside of a Shake Shack restaurant (Photo by Scott Olson/Getty Images)

MANHATTAN — A Shake Shack manager filed a lawsuit against New York City, several police unions and a number of NYPD officers one year after workers at the restaurant were lambasted when police unions falsely claimed they “intentionally poisoned” officers.

Less than 24 hours after officers were sickened by milkshakes at the Fulton Center location, police determined there was no criminality. At the time, police sources told PIX11 a machine had been improperly cleaned.

In a complaint filed Monday, manager Marcus Gilliam claimed he was “falsely arrested, and suffered emotional and psychological damages and damage to his reputation.”

On the night of June 15, 2020, as police faced anti-officer sentiment in the wake of George Floyd’s death, several officers used a mobile app to order three milkshakes: strawberry, vanilla and cherry, according to the complaint. The shakes were ready and waiting for them when they arrived.

They told Gilliam the drinks tasted wrong and threw the shakes out, according to the complaint. Gilliam apologized and offered the officers vouchers for free food and milkshakes, which they accepted.

But then the officers — identified in the suit as Officers Strawberry Shake, Vanilla Shake and Cherry Shake — told their sergeant that Gilliam had put a “toxic substance in their milkshakes,” according to the complaint. The sergeant called an Emergency Services Unit to set up a crime scene at the Shake Shack.

“You put three of my cops in the hospital,” a sergeant allegedly said to Gilliam during the investigation. “When did you add the bleach?”

As this was happening, a lieutenant sent an email to the Police Benevolent Association (PBA) and the Detective’s Endowment Association (DEA), telling the unions the officers “started throwing up after drinking beverages they got from Shake Shack on 200 Broadway,” according to the complaint. But the officers had gone to the hospital and were released, allegedly without ever showing any symptoms.

Both unions tweeted about it as Gilliam was interrogated by police. He was held for five or six hours in total, according to the complaint.

After the incident, Mayor Bill de Blasio blasted union leaders.

“These union leaders don’t want the truth,” he said. “They just want to sow division and we have to figure out what the limits are on their right to do that.”

PIX11 has reached out to the PBA and Shake Shack for comment on the lawsuit.

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