SCHENECTADY — The owner of Bumpy's Polar Freeze was arrested Tuesday night after allegedly pointing a weapon at demonstrators protesting his besieged business.
David Elmendorf, 35, was charged with two counts of second-degree menacing, both misdemeanors, police said.
Police found him after a traffic stop nearby with a weapon authorities described as a pellet gun.
Local activist Brianna Johnson said Elmendorf, the owner of the ice cream parlor where activists have been staked out for days protesting alleged racist text messages he allegedly sent, pointed the gun at the group.
Elmendorf’s attorney, James G. Mermigis, said earlier his client was in Connecticut on Tuesday to take a mental health break following days of protests outside of his embattled business.
“It’s not my client,” Mermigis said on Tuesday evening when asked to confirm if his client had been arrested.
But after being shown a photo of the weapon-toting man taken by a demonstrator and posted on social media, Mermigis said, “Very hard to tell from this picture.”
Mermigis later confirmed that the man arrested was Elmendorf.
“He was in Connecticut but I guess he came back," Mermigis said.
The arrest came after protests continued Tuesday at Bumpy's, which is also defying a county shutdown order stemming from a code violation. Elmendorf has been fighting back allegations of racism following the appearance of text messages on social media saying he doesn't hire Black people.
Following demonstrations on Sunday, three Black employees walked out after receiving cash from protesters and promises of future jobs.
Mermigis pointed at their employment as evidence that Elmendorf wasn't a racist.
But two of the employees said their first day was on Sunday, days after the text messages emerged on social media.
Asked to reconcile their statements, and if Elmendorf hired them to fend off accusations of being racist, Mermigis accused the former employees of being dishonest.
“These people have been working for him for years," Mermigis said on Tuesday. “Everybody he had on Sunday had been working for at least a year."
On Tuesday afternoon, roughly 75 demonstrators gathered at Bumpy's, with tensions exacerbated over an incident that allegedly unfolded overnight Tuesday.
Johnson said a small group had previously gathered outside of the State Street shop around 4:30 a.m. Tuesday when two men emerged from the business, hurled racist language and threatened to shoot them.
“Shut the [expletive] up before we shoot you,” Johnson recalled. "You're wasted space."
Another allegedly wielded a large pole, an account corroborated by Shaqueena Charles and one other attendee.
Johnson filed a police report Tuesday.
Mermigis confirmed Elmendorf was carrying the pole, but said it was to safeguard against what he said were people intent on hurting his client and damaging his business.
“He ran out with a lead pipe to protect his property,” Mermigis said. “People brandished guns and said they would shoot anyone who goes in there.”
There's no indication protesters were waving firearms.
Johnson and other demonstrators wondered why police weren’t taking action against Elmendorf, citing alleged threats caught on video.
“There’s nothing to investigate,” said Mikayla Foster, an activist with Schenectady-based grassroots organization of All of Us.
Foster also wondered why the business remained open despite flouting a county Health Department shutdown order.
Elmendorf was arrested by city police last week on a charge of obstructing government administration, and Bumpy's remains open despite running the risk of racking up fines of $2,000 per day.
Despite the protesters, signs indicated the business was open on Tuesday, but demonstrators dissuaded any business by sitting down outside and delivering a series of fiery speeches.
Following allegations Elmendoft sent racist text messages, County Attorney Chris Gardner asked the state Attorney General's Office to launch a civil rights probe.
Mermigis accused Gardner of “leaking” the investigation to the news media in order to smear his client.
City and county sheriff’s deputies were on site Tuesday afternoon to warn the protesters against blocking traffic on State Street, but left by 6:40 p.m..
Afterward, the atmosphere remained tense as the crowd engaged in minor skirmishes with motorists attempting to enter or leave Shirley Lane, which organizers blocked.