SCHENECTADY – State Attorney General Letitia James is suing the former owner of Bumpy’s Polar Freeze, alleging he used racist intimidation tactics against peaceful protesters last summer.
The lawsuit marks the first such suit brought by the Attorney General’s Hate Crimes and Bias Prevention unit under new authority granted by the state Legislature last year, officials said.
The lawsuit against David Elmendorf, the former owner of Bumpy’s Polar Freeze on State Street, aims to stop discrimination, harassment, violent threats, and what she said were false, race-based police reports, her office announced Wednesday.
The lawsuit further aims to hold Elmendorf responsible 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, James said in a statement.
The lawsuit comes after Elmendorf was accused of saying in text messages that he doesn’t hire Black people, which brought protesters to the establishment on several occasions last summer, urging a boycott.
He was then arrested and charged then with pointing a weapon that turned out to be a pellet gun at demonstrators and, in October, he was arrested on a felony charge after being accused of assaulting a process server outside his home.
In altercations with peaceful Black Lives Matter protesters, Elmendorf brandished several weapons and made death threats in an effort to stop legal protests, while using a number of offensive, racial epithets when referring to Black protesters, James alleged.
Following the altercations, Elmendorf called the police and falsely claimed protesters were “brandishing weapons as he used their race and color as reasoning for the call.”
James said the lawsuit is the first brought by her Hate Crimes and Bias Prevention Unit, and it seeks to make use of new authority granted to the attorney general by the state Legislature last year against those accused of making false, race-based police reports to local police.
The turmoil at Bumpy’s came just months after the infamous “Central Park Karen’’ incident in New York City involving a white woman who falsely accused a black birdwatcher of threatening her, officials noted.
In that case, Amy Cooper was accused of lying to New York City Police that an African-American man threatened her and her dog. The incident was caught on cellphone video in May 2020. The Black man, Christian Cooper (no relation) had told her to leash her dog, per park rules.
Charges against Amy Cooper were dismissed after she completed therapy sessions “designed for introspection and progress.”
After the Central Park case, the state Legislature passed a law giving the attorney general 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.
“Those who make racist and violent threats will be held accountable by my office with the full weight of the law,” James said.
“The 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,” James said. “Today, we are utilizing new authority, for the first time, to bring charges against an individual who filed false, race-based police reports. 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.”
In June, text messages allegedly written by Elmendorf circulated on social media, revealing his use of racial epithets and refusal to hire Black people.
Black Lives Matter and other groups protested against Elmendorf on private property near his ice cream stand.
In a two-day span, the AG alleged, Elmendorf terrorized peaceful protesters by making several armed, racist death threats with both a .22-caliber air rifle and a baton.
Elmendorf called local police and made false reports — claiming protesters were armed, when, in fact, no protesters were carrying any weapons, James said.
The AG’s lawsuit seeks to force Elmendorf to pay a penalty of up to $500 for each instance where he attempted to violate a protester’s right to peacefully protest.
The ice cream operation has since been sold to new owners and a new store is expected to reopen soon at the site under a new name.
Elmendorf’s lawyer, James Mermigis, declined to comment when reached Wednesday. Mermigis confirmed that he was meeting with his client about this matter Wednesday.