A Shake Shack manager has filed a lawsuit against police unions and New York City police officers who claimed last year that they were deliberately poisoned by the burger chain's employees.
The manager, Marcus Gilliam, claimed in the lawsuit filed Monday that police falsely arrested him after three cops said they were sickened by something in their milkshakes at the Fulton Transit Center Shake Shack. As a result, Gilliam says he suffered emotional and psychological damages and damage to his reputation.
"I felt like I was violated," the manager tells NBC New York. "I did not feel safe in my own area. I would run into the cops sometimes, or one of the cops, and I would panic. I would shut down."
The lawsuit named Patrick Lynch, the President of the Police Benevolent Association, the Detectives' Endowment Association and NYPD officers involved, according to court documents.
Shortly after the incident on June 15, 2020, Lynch sent a message to union members warning them to "carefully inspect any prepared food item they purchase while on duty for possible contamination."
"When New York City police officers cannot even take (a) meal without coming under attack, it is clear that environment in which we work has deteriorated to a critical level," Lynch said. "We cannot afford to let our guard down for even a moment."
Gilliam's attorney Elliot Shields says the police unions were drumming up a "false narrative" of police officers being attacked at the time, referring to the protests that erupted last summer over the Minnesota police killing of George Floyd and other Black Americans like Breonna Taylor and Elijah McClain.
The officers who ordered the milkshakes were working at one of the protests that night, the PBA said. However, Gilliam and other Shake Shack employees couldn't even have known that the food order belonged to police officers because investigators found that they placed their orders, which were already packaged when the cops arrived to pick them up, on an app.
According to the lawsuit, Gilliam said he cooperated with investigators who quickly discovered that none of the employees put bleach or any other toxic substances inside the milkshakes. Still, one police sergeant claimed at the scene that the Shack Shake employee "put three of my cops in the hospital" and the police unions sent out warnings that the cops "starting throwing up" after drinking the milkshakes — all while knowing their claims were false, Gilliam said.
"The PBA and DEA knew that the email was false because the officers had gone to the hospital and were released without ever showing any symptoms," part of the lawsuit read.
Gilliam says he was unlawfully detained by the police officers for approximately five to six hours and that they had no probable cause to arrest him of any crime. The manager added that he was later taunted at his workplace over the false allegations. He has since quit.
An NYPD spokesperson later said that the substance found in the drinks ingested by officers that night was a cleaning solution left in the drink machine.
So far, neither the city nor the police have commented on the lawsuit.