Attorney General James Wins Lawsuit Against Former Ice Cream Shop Owner For Filing False, Race-Based Police Report and Use of Racist Intimidation Tactics and Violent Threats
Former Owner of Bumpy’s Polar Freeze Forced to Pay Peaceful
BLM Protesters He Harassed, Threatened, and Pulled Weapons On
First Lawsuit Utilizing AG’s Authority to Prosecute False, Race-Based Police
Reports and First Lawsuit Brought by AG James’ Hate Crimes and Bias Prevention Unit
NEW YORK – New York Attorney General Letitia James today announced that a judge ruled in her favor in a lawsuit filed against the former owner of Bumpy’s Polar Freeze, a popular ice cream shop in Schenectady, New York, for discrimination, harassment, making violent threats, and filing false, race-based police reports against peaceful protesters. The decision resolves a March 2021 lawsuit against the former owner of Bumpy’s, David Elmendorf, for multiple racist and discriminatory actions he took in violation of the law shortly after the ice cream shop’s allegedly racist hiring practices came to light last year. In altercations with peaceful Black Lives Matter protesters, Elmendorf brandished several weapons and made death threats in an effort to stop protests, while simultaneously using a number of offensive, racial epithets when referring to Black protesters. Following the altercations, Elmendorf called the police and falsely claimed protesters were brandishing weapons as he used their race and color as the reason for the call.
As part of the judgment, Elmendorf is required to pay $500 to each of the nine victims he harassed and threatened and is permanently enjoined from making future threats to intimidate, coerce, harass, or use physical violence against any persons or group of people because of their race, from having or brandishing a deadly weapon within 1,000 feet of any peaceful protest, from communicating with any of the victims from the incident, and from creating false reports with the police based on a person’s skin color.
This lawsuit was the first brought by Attorney General James’ Hate Crimes and Bias Prevention Unit and was the first lawsuit under a new authority granted to Attorney General James by the state legislature last year, allowing her office to prosecute those making false, race-based police reports to local police.
“There is zero tolerance for harassment, intimidation, or violence of any kind against anyone in New York,” said Attorney General James. “As this nation continues to be plagued by division and hate, this decision sends a critical and clear message that those who perpetuate racism and discrimination, including filing false, race-based police reports, will be held to the fullest extent of the law. This is an important step forward, but our work isn’t over — we will continue to work tirelessly to ensure that every New Yorker feels safe and protected.”
Last June, text messages allegedly authored by Elmendorf circulated on social media, revealing the use of racial epithets and Elmendorf’s refusal to hire Black individuals. In response, Black community groups — including Black Lives Matter — as well as hundreds of others protested against Elmendorf on private property near Bumpy’s. Over a period of two days, Elmendorf then terrorized peaceful protesters by making several armed, racist death threats with both a .22 caliber air rifle and a baton. Additionally, Elmendorf called local police and made false reports — claiming protesters were armed, when, in fact, no protesters were carrying any weapons.
The lawsuit charged Elmendorf with intending to choose his victims based on race, in violation of New York Civil Rights Law (NYCLR) § 79-n, as well as violating their ability to practice their civil right to peacefully protest when he threatened to use physical force and harassed protesters with racial slurs, under New York Civil Rights Law § 40-c.
Additionally, for the first time since the passage of the additional provision in NYCLR § 79-n last summer, Attorney General James brought a charge against an individual for filing a false, racially-motivated police report. Last year, following the high-profile case against Amy Cooper, a white woman who called 911 on an innocent Black birdwatcher in Central Park, the state legislature passed a law giving Attorney General James the authority to sue any person who — when motivated by racial or other bias — “summons a police officer…without reason to suspect a violation of the penal law.”
“I thank Attorney General Letitia James and the staff of the New York Attorney General’s Office for their professionalism and dedication to justice for our community,” said Schenectady County Attorney Christopher H. Gardner. “This decision demonstrates that government, at all levels, is committed to seeking justice for all members of our community. When I requested the Attorney General’s assistance to help address this difficult situation, she did so immediately and without hesitation.”
“This outcome sends a clear message that racism and hatred will not be tolerated in our community,” said Schenectady Mayor Gary McCarthy. “On behalf of the city of Schenectady, I would like to thank Attorney General James and her team for their dedicated work on this historic case.”
“As a member of Schenectady Clergy Against Hate, I want to applaud Attorney General James for asserting that racism and discrimination has no place in our community,” said Rabbi Matt Cutler, Schenectady Clergy Against Hate. “We also applaud Justice Michael Cuevas for levying the maximum penalty per victim as permitted by law. We as people of faith believe that it is our moral imperative to eradicate hatred wherever it exists. We will use whatever tools we have before us — education, criminal prosecution, civil liabilities claims, the media, the pulpit, peaceful gatherings, peer-to-peer advocacy, etc. There is no place for hate in Schenectady County and we stand together as a community to pursue justice!”
“We consider the outcome of this lawsuit to be a victory for the entire community of Schenectady,” said Rev. Nicolle D. Harris, president, NAACP Schenectady Branch #2175. “It demonstrates that acts of racism will not be tolerated. It is the vision of the NAACP to ensure a society in which all individuals have equal rights and there is no racial hatred or racial discrimination. We applaud Attorney General Letitia James because this win against David Elmendorf, the former owner of Bumpy’s Polar Freeze, moves us toward that vision becoming a reality.”
“In June of 2020, All Of Us stood against and called out the racist acts of David Elmendorf, the owner of Bumpy’s Polar Freeze. We were able to successfully shut down the business but not before David himself attacked Black protesters and allies,” said Jamaica Miles and Shawn Young, All Of Us. “We were proud to learn that Attorney General Letitia James’ Office later filed a lawsuit for race-based actions against the peaceful protestors who were calling for justice. The outcome of the case brings us a step closer in our journey to addressing racism in our region and in our state. This is a victory for All Of Us and the community. This is a victory for all who stand against racism. This is a victory for the many businesses that actively support their entire community. Racism thrives in silence and in the dark. We are sincerely thankful for all those in the community who took action to raise awareness around the racist acts of Mr. Elmendorf and the business practices of Bumpy’s, especially those who were willing to relive their traumatic experience testifying about what happened. This process was a collective one. This is what community looks like.”
This matter was handled by Special Counsel for the Hate Crimes and Bias Prevention Unit Rick Sawyer, Assistant Attorney General Sania Khan, and Volunteer Assistant Attorney General Hannah Bernard — all under the supervision of Civil Rights Bureau Chief Jessica Clarke; Investigator Samuel Scotellaro and Supervising Investigator Mark Spencer; and Associate Director of Legislative Affairs Casandra Walker. The Investigations Bureau is led by Chief Oliver Pu-Folkes. The Civil Rights Bureau is a part of the Division for Social Justice, which is led by Chief Deputy Attorney General Meghan Faux. The Investigations Bureau is a part of the Division for Criminal Justice, which is led by Chief Deputy Attorney General José Maldonado. Both the Division for Social Justice and the Division for Criminal Justice are overseen by First Deputy Attorney General Jennifer Levy.