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NYPD Debunks Police Union Claims That Shake Shack Workers Intentionally Poisoned Cops

The Police Benevolent Association and the Detectives’ Endowment Association both made statements claiming that officers were intentionally fed bleach at a Manhattan Shake Shack location

Shake Shack sign.
Shake Shack employees were accused of intentionally poisoning NYPD officers’ milkshakes.
Photo: PL Gould/Shutterstock

The New York City Police Department has debunked claims made by its own police unions accusing employees at a Shake Shack in Manhattan of deliberately poisoning officers via contaminated milkshakes.

The allegations were made by the Police Benevolent Association (PBA) and the Detectives’ Endowment Association (DEA) following the hospitalization of three NYPD officers on the evening of June 15. The officers had been drinking Shake Shack milkshakes that they believe may have been tainted with bleach, noting a “funny taste,” police sources told the New York Post. As the Post reported this morning: “Police sources said the case has been deemed unintentional after it appeared that whatever cleaning solution was used on the shake machine wasn’t rinsed off enough.”

The PBA, which represents approximately 50,000 active and retired officers in New York, published and sent its members a statement last night including the claim that “a toxic substance … had been placed” in the three officers’ drinks. “When New York City police officers cannot even take meal [sic] without coming under attack, it is clear that environment [sic] in which we work has deteriorated to a critical level. We cannot afford to let our guard down for even a moment,” the union president Patrick J. Lynch warns in the statement.

The DEA, which has a membership of around 20,000 in New York, went a step further, writing — apparently without evidence — in a June 15 statement and now-deleted tweet by president Paul DiGiacomo: “Tonight, three of our brothers in blue were intentionally poisoned by one or more workers at the Shake Shack.” The statement, which also includes the address of the Shake Shack in question, urges members to “be more vigilant than ever” and to “protect yourself and your fellow cops at all costs” from “vicious criminals who dislike us simply because of the uniform we wear.”

Throughout the night, Shake Shack was bombarded by tweets accusing the chain of attempted murder and calls to #BoycottShakeShack, messages that were amplified by right-leaning accounts with large followings. Even after NYPD Chief of Detectives Rodney Harrison stated early Tuesday morning that a thorough investigation found “no criminality” by Shake Shack’s employees, social media users and conservative figures continued to push rumors and claims that the whole thing was a “cover-up,” effectively turning the police unions’ allegations into the beginnings of a persisting conspiracy theory. (The PBA and the DEA, meanwhile, posted updates acknowledging Harrison’s “no criminality” finding, but as of press time did not publicly acknowledge their own roles in sparking rumors that the milkshake contamination had been deliberate.)

As Vice notes, this is not the first time that members of law enforcement have made false claims about being intentionally targeted at food and drink establishments. Last December, a police officer in Herington, Kansas, resigned after he told his chief that a McDonald’s employee writing “fucking pig” on his coffee cup — a story that turned out to be fake. Also in December, NYPD Commissioner Dermot Shea accused a Queens deli of committing an “[act] of violence” against law enforcement by embedding a razor blade in a plainclothesman’s sandwich, an incident that turned out to be an (admittedly dangerous) accident. Earlier in 2019, a police officer in Indianapolis accused McDonald’s employees of taking a bite out of his chicken sandwich, only for an investigation to reveal that the officer had taken the bite and forgotten about it. In 2016, police in Layton, Utah, arrested a Subway worker, accusing him of drugging an officer’s sandwich, only for test results to come back negative for illegal substances. In 2014, the city of New York awarded a former McDonald’s worker a $437,000 settlement after he was falsely accused of putting glass shards in a police officer’s Big Mac.