NYPD’s Shake Shack Milkshake Bleach Hysteria Ends In A Defamation Suit

A view outside Shake Shack in Herald Square on May 13, 2020 in New York City. (Photo by Noam Galai/Getty Images)
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June 15, 2021 1:43 p.m.

Remember when three NYPD cops claimed they were victims of a nefarious plot to poison their Shake Shack milkshakes last year — until it was later learned the officers weren’t poisoned and the entire non-incident was mostly rooted in hysteria?

Well, now those officers, along with several NYC police unions and other NYPD cops who were involved in the mess, are getting served a defamation suit by the Shake Shack manager who claims in the suit officers took him into custody and questioned for two hours.

“Throughout the interrogation, the Detectives taunted [Gilliam] about putting bleach in the milkshakes,” the lawsuit alleges.

The three officers, who were taken to the hospital after allegedly tasting bleach despite showing no symptoms of illness, are identified in the court document as “Officer Strawberry Shake,” “Officer Vanilla Shake,” “Officer Cherry Shake,” and a fourth officer as “NYPD Sergeant who stated When Did You Add The Bleach.” Patrick Lynch, the president of the NYC Police Benevolent Association (PBA), is also named as one of the defendants.

The plaintiff, Marcus Gilliam, claims he “suffered emotional and psychological damages and damage to his reputation” both as a result of his arrest and the fact that the police unions had put out “grossly irresponsible” public statements claiming the officers had been intentionally poisoned at the burger joint, the lawsuit alleges. The investigation into the allegedly deadly milkshakes found that the bleach taste of the milkshakes likely came from cleaner fluid that had been left on the machine after it was cleaned — not intentional poisoning.

The incident was part of an eyebrow-raising string of law enforcement officials claiming their food had been tampered with by fast food employees, only for the alleged assault to be revealed as either an honest mistake or flat-out nonexistent.

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In fact, one week after the Shake Shack incident, an off-duty Los Angeles Police officer claimed a Starbucks employee had put a tampon in his Frappuccino, his evidence being a photo of a dripping object that looked nothing like a tampon. Ultimately, the LAPD did not find evidence of foul play by the employee and concluded the item may have been a cleaning cloth that was left in the cup by accident.

Both false alarms happened to arise during the George Floyd protests that demanded that police be held accountable for assaulting and killing Black people during arrests.

Read the filing below:

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