Manager falsely accused of poisoning officers’ shakes files lawsuit

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The Shake Shack shift manager who was accused of poisoning the milkshakes of three New York City police officers last year has filed a lawsuit against the unnamed officials and their police unions. 

Marcus Gilliam was detained last year when the uniformed officers were sickened by a cleaning solution accidentally left in a shake machine. The incident happened on June 15, 2020, amid protests against police brutality after the murder of George Floyd by former Minneapolis officer Derek Chauvin. 

A now-former New York Shake Shack shift manager says in a new lawsuit that the NYPD falsely arrested then defamed him. He wants monetary damages and lawyers’ fees. (Photo by Jeenah Moon/Getty Images)

Gilliam, 28, said the trio of officers immediately complained about the taste of the milkshakes, which had been ordered via a mobile app. He apologized, said Gilliam — believing they simply disliked the shakes’ respective cherry, strawberry and vanilla flavors — and offered them something else or free meal vouchers. They accepted the latter. 

Two hours later, 20 officers and a sergeant returned to the store and declared it a crime scene, accusing Gilliam of intentionally poisoning the officers with a “toxic substance.”

According to the lawsuit and a report from NBC News, Gilliam was told to show officers how the milkshakes are made, and a sergeant asked him, “When did you add the bleach?” He was also told the officers had been hospitalized, then taken to the police station and questioned for over an hour, where he alleged that he was “taunted” for putting bleach in the milkshakes. 

He was returned to the Shake Shack store after three hours in police custody. 

“At that moment, I’m sitting here thinking I’m being charged with attempted murder,” he said in an interview with The New York Times on Tuesday. “I wanted to scream. I wanted to cry.”

Gilliam’s lawsuit is seeking attorneys’ fees and damages for defamation and deprivation due to “emotional and psychological” harm. He notes that the incident has left a lingering effect on his psyche, including fear of police

At the time, unions Police Benevolent Association and the Detectives’ Endowment Association both posted messages on Twitter saying that the officers had been intentionally poisoned by bleach, and several news outlets published stories about the incident. 

“PBA and DEA were grossly irresponsible in disseminating the tweets since there was no evidence whatsoever that plaintiff or his employees had poisoned” the officers, the lawsuit states. 

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