The New York Attorney General’s “Hate Crimes and Bias Prevention Unit” brought its inaugural lawsuit earlier this week against upstate ice cream shop owner David Elmendorf.
Filed by state AG Letitia James, the lawsuit alleges that a late June “peaceful protest” taking place outside of Elmendorf’s business, Bumpy’s Polar Freeze, was disturbed when the shop’s owner unnecessarily called the police. The protesters were organized outside the business in response to alleged text messages from Elmendorf in which he espoused racial epithets and racist business practices.
The civil court charges “against David 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,” said AG James in a statement.
The civil statue allowing NY AG Letitia James and her Hate Crimes and Bias Prevention Unit to sue any individual who submits a false crime report based on race, gender, religion or sexual preference was passed in June of last year after a viral New York City incident between a white woman, a black man and an unleashed dog.
Alleged in this lawsuit, “Elmendorf violated various New York laws over the course of two days in June 2020 when he made multiple armed threats, including death threats using derogatory racist language, against peaceful Black protesters and made false reports to the police regarding those protestors.”
While Elmendorf already faces state criminal charges for his alleged illegal conduct, he now finds himself sued in civil court by the state’s AG as well.
In an interview given by the defendant’s lawyer, James Mermigis, he vehemently pushed against the AG’s narrative, expressing that his client “doesn’t have a racist bone in his body” and “categorically denies all allegations.”
Mermigis went on to offer a contradictory succession of events in which Elmendorf was being baited into retaliation by protesters and only brandished his air rifle in self-defense of himself and an unnamed friend.
The question now becomes, who can prove the veracity of their narrative in court?
Many will recall last May’s viral confrontation between Amy “Karen” Cooper, who was walking her dog unleashed in Central Park and Christian Cooper (no relation), who was bird watching in the same area.
Ultimately, Ms. Cooper, a white woman, felt it necessary to call the police, saying in the viral video, “I’m calling the cops… I’m going to tell them that there is a African-American man threatening my life,” when clearly no such threats had been levied.
Oh, when Karens take a walk with their dogs off leash in the famous Bramble in NY’s Central Park, where it is clearly posted on signs that dogs MUST be leashed at all times, and someone like my brother (an avid birder) politely asks her to put her dog on the leash. pic.twitter.com/3YnzuATsDm— Melody Cooper (@melodyMcooper) May 25, 2020
This incident proved inspirational to New York lawmakers who moved quickly to pass “Karen’s” bill allowing the AG to sue those who make false reports based on biases.
"This legislation sends the message loud and clear that it is not a crime for people of color to exist in public spaces, and it establishes a means of recourse should they encounter such treatment," said Brooklyn Assemblywoman Diana Richardson.
Going forward, David Elmendorf faces additional charges of assault and harassment based on incidents occurring after the June protest.