By AARON KATERSKY, ABC News
With 101 different soft serve flavors, bumper boats and a 30-foot climbing wall, Bumpy’s Polar Freeze was something of a summertime institution for decades in Schenectady, New York.
More recently, though, it became known for the alleged actions of its former owner, David Elmendorf, who was accused of racist actions and making false reports to the police.
On Wednesday, the New York attorney general’s office sued Elmendorf over his alleged use of racist intimidation tactics during protests against his business last June.
“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,” the civil lawsuit states.
According to the lawsuit, 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. Following the altercations, Elmendorf reportedly called the police and falsely claimed protesters were brandishing weapons as he used their race and color as reasoning for the call.
Elmendorf’s attorney, James Mermigis, said his client categorically denies every allegation in the complaint.
“This guy is not a racist,” he said.
The lawsuit asks the court to block Elmendorf from having a weapon within 1,000 feet of a protest and to prevent him from threatening, assaulting or intimidating people based on the color of their skin. It also asks the court to declare that he violated civil rights laws and to order that he pay up to $500 for each instance of violating a protester’s civil rights.
The lawsuit is the first brought by the office’s Hate Crimes and Bias Prevention Unit, which New York Attorney General Tish James established after the state Legislature made it unlawful to make false, race-based police reports.
That law was passed last year after the case against Amy Cooper, the white woman who called police on a Black birdwatcher during a caught-on-camera encounter in Central Park. Cooper’s case was dismissed by the Manhattan DA’s office after she fulfilled an education program.
The law allows the attorney general to sue someone who “summons a police officer … without reason to suspect a violation of the penal law” when motivated by racial bias.
“Those who make racist and violent threats will be held accountable by my office with the full weight of the law,” James said in a statement accompanying an announcement of the lawsuit.
“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,” she said.
Last June, text messages allegedly authored by Elmendorf circulated on social media, revealing the use of racial epithets and a refusal to hire Black individuals, according to the complaint. When Black community groups protested, James claims Elmendorf “terrorized peaceful protesters” by making armed, racist death threats with both a .22 caliber air rifle and a baton.
Mermigis said three out of every four of Elmendorf’s employees were minorities.
He also alleged some of the protesters were antagonizing customers, smashing windows and stealing property.
“They were baiting him to do stuff,” Mermigis said. “It’s really unfortunate his name is being smeared like this.”
ABC News’ Celia Darrough contributed to this report.
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