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Investigation Concludes Police Union’s Shake Shack Poisoning Claim Was Bogus


NEW YORK, NY - APRIL 20: Exterior view of a Shake Shack restaurant on April 20, 2020 in New York City. Shake Shack announced that they will return a $10 million government loan meant for small businesses.

Hours after a series of public accusations from one of the nation’s largest police unions that several NYPD officers had been intentionally poisoned at a Shake Shack restaurant, investigators found no evidence to support the allegations that officers were “under attack.”

“After a thorough investigation by the NYPD’s Manhattan South investigators, it has been determined that there was no criminality by [S]hake [S]hack’s employees,” Chief of Detectives Rodney Harrison wrote in a tweet early Tuesday.

The controversy arose after several officers said their drinks tasted strange while dining at one of the chain’s downtown locations. They were taken to Bellevue Hospital and released a few hours later. An immediate investigation concluded that the source of the strange taste was unintentional – likely due to a chemical solution that was used to clean the shake machine which was then not thoroughly rinsed.

Before authorities concluded there was a dearth of evidence that anyone had intentionally attempted to “spike” the officers’ drinks, the Police Benevolent Association of NYC (PBA) had released a “critical” update about the incident on the group’s official Twitter account.

“When NYC police officers cannot even take meal without coming under attack, it is clear that environment in which we work has deteriorated to a critical level. We cannot afford to let our guard down for even a moment,” the organization wrote late Monday evening.

The post also included a statement from PBA President Patrick Lynch, which said a “toxic substance” had been “placed” in the drinks.

“I am writing to alert you to yet another serious safety issue,” Lynch said. “This evening, several MOS assigned to a protest detail in lower Manhattan took meal at the Shake Shack location of Broadway and Fulton Street. At some point during their meal period, the MOS discovered that a toxic substance, believed to be bleach, had been placed in their beverages. The contamination was not discovered until the MOS had already ingested a portion of their beverages.”

Despite the investigation concluding that nothing nefarious took place, the post remains up on the PBA’s Twitter account as of press time. However, the organization did respond to its initial post by issuing an update on the situation. The update says the officers’ drinks were “contaminated” but added that “based on current evidence, there was no intentional attack on New York City police officers in this case.”

The update did not contain an apology for erroneously accusing employees at a private business of attempting to “attack” police officers by poisoning them.

Shake Shack issued a statement that the company is “working hard to get the full picture,” adding it was “relieved to hear the officers are all okay.”

The lack of supporting evidence and statement from Chief Harrison did not stop conservative media personalities such as Sean Hannity and Tomi Lahren from continuing to push the false narrative.

Other reactions to the PBA’s baseless allegations were not kind.

[Photo by Jeenah Moon/Getty Images.]

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Jerry Lambe is a journalist at Law&Crime. He is a graduate of Georgetown University and New York Law School and previously worked in financial securities compliance and Civil Rights employment law.