The lawsuit suggests that NYPD never found any evidence that a "toxic substance" was put into three officers' milkshakes.

By Mike Pomranz
June 15, 2021
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Marcus Gilliam-the Shake Shack manager who was working when three NYPD officers falsely claimed they had been poisoned with bleach-tainted milkshakes at the chain last June-has filed a civil suit against two police unions, the police officers involved, and the City of New York claiming that he "was falsely arrested, and suffered emotional and psychological damages and damage to his reputation" due to the incident.

According to court documents, the incident took place on June 15, 2020: Three officers-named in the filing simply as "Officers Strawberry Shake, Vanilla Shake and Cherry Shake"-ordered those respective items through a mobile app while working "protest duty" in the wake of the murder of George Floyd. Believing the shakes didn't taste right, the officers are said to have thrown them out before complaining to Gilliam, who apologized and provided the trio with vouchers for free food and drinks as compensation. The mobile app plays a key role in the suit, offered as evidence that employees couldn't have known NYPD officers had placed the order and the workers would have put the sealed order out for collection.

Crowded Shake Shack and Irving Farm in the Fulton Center.
Credit: Jeff Greenberg / Contributor/Getty Images

The suit claims that things escalated after the officers told their sergeant that Gilliam had put "a 'toxic substance', possibly bleach," in the shakes. Emergency Services were purportedly brought in to set up a crime scene at the Fulton Transit Center Shake Shack location and the three officers went to the hospital for checkups. However, the suit states-and a report by the New York Post further corroborates-that no evidence was found backing the "toxic substance" theory: Gilliam says he complied with the entire investigation, security footage revealed no wrongdoing, and the officers were released without any symptoms.

But the suit alleges that the officials continued to share these claims both internally and publicly, including a DEA tweet, said to be shared approximately 11,000 times, stating, "Tonight, three of our fellow officers were intentionally poisoned by one or more workers at the Shake Shack at 200 Broadway in Manhattan." Tweets such as these that named the specific location of the chain were deemed particularly troublesome in the court filing since "those who know [Gilliam] recognized that as manager of the Shake Shack, the tweet referred to him."

Additionally, Gilliam also says he was detained and interrogated for hours despite, as the complaint states, that "police officers lacked probably cause to arrest Plaintiff for any crime." The filing states that Gilliam was finally dropped back off at the Shake Shack at 1:30 a.m.

Among Gilliam's multiple claims of false arrest and defamation, the lawsuit states that he suffered "economic injuries, violation of his civil rights, emotional distress, anguish, anxiety, fear, humiliation, loss of freedom, economic damages, legal expenses and damages to his reputation and standing with his community." Gilliam is seeking unspecified compensatory and punitive damages.