New York Attorney General Letitia James (D) filed the state's first lawsuit over an allegedly fabricated race-based police report in connection with a former ice cream shop owner who claimed he was threatened by Black Lives Matter protesters last year.
The legal complaint stated that David Elmendorf, the former owner of Bumpy’s Polar Freeze in Schenectady, N.Y., violated state law by making “multiple armed threats, including death threats using derogatory racist language, against peaceful Black protestors and made false reports to the police regarding those protestors.”
James argued that protesters began demonstrating outside of Elmendorf’s ice cream shop in June after a series of racist text messages he allegedly sent circulated on social media.
James wrote that Elmendorf called the police on June 30 and falsely claimed that there were “20 armed protestors who were threatening to shoot him,” prompting five police cars to arrive at the scene. Authorities made no arrests, according to the attorney general.
The lawsuit said that “Elmendorf physically and verbally threatened a group of Black protesters who stood peacefully on the porch of a private house near Bumpy’s,” including by shouting racial slurs, prior to the 911 call.
During another round of protests that evening, the man allegedly “threatened a crowd of roughly fifty peaceful protestors with a .22-caliber air rifle.”
The legal complaint is the first filed following last year’s passage of a law that makes it a crime to call 911 or file a false police report in an attempt to intimidate someone because of race.
The legislation came in response to an incident that went viral last summer in which a white woman called 911 on a Black birdwatcher and falsely reported that he was threatening her after he asked her to put her dog on a leash in New York City's Central Park.
James in a statement Wednesday said the lawsuit against Elmendorf should “serve as a warning that hate crimes will not be tolerated on my watch and we will not allow any individual to use the color of someone’s skin as a weapon.”
“Those who make racist and violent threats will be held accountable by my office with the full weight of the law,” added the attorney general, who is also the first Black person elected to statewide office in New York.
James went on to say, “We must continue to remain vigilant against hate and bias in our communities, and I encourage anyone with information about a potential hate crime to contact my office.”
Elmendorf now faces charges of “intending to choose his victims based on race” and “violating their ability to practice their civil right to peacefully protest when he threatened to use physical force and harassed protesters with racial slurs,” with penalties of up to $500 for each count.