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New York shop owner accused by attorney general of racist threats, false police report

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(Reuters) - New York's attorney general on Tuesday accused a former ice cream shop owner of making a racially motivated false police report against Black protesters outside his store during last summer's nationwide demonstrations over racial inequity and policing.

The civil lawsuit filed by Attorney General Letitia James also accused David Elmendorf, who previously owned Bumpy's Polar Freeze in Schenectady, New York, of targeting Black protesters with racist threats while brandishing an air rifle and a baton.

"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 in a statement announcing the lawsuit.

The case is the first use of a new state law that allows the attorney general's office to sue an individual who summons a police officer under false, racially motivated pretenses, James said.

The law was enacted last summer after a high-profile case in which a white woman, Amy Cooper, called police and falsely told them a Black birdwatcher in New York City's Central Park was threatening her.

Elmendorf's attorney, James Mermigis, said his client "categorically denies all allegations" and that he faced threats of his own from the protesters last year.

"He doesn't have a racist bone in his body," Mermigis said. "These allegations are false. He's being smeared, he's being targeted, and the evidence will show that."

Elmendorf's business saw sustained demonstrations last summer after the emergence of racist social media messages that appeared to be written by Elmendorf.

Those messages are fake and did not come from Elmendorf, Mermigis said.

Elmendorf separately faces criminal charges of menacing, a misdemeanor, stemming from his confrontation of protesters outside his shop. He was also arrested for assault in October and was involved in a legal battle with county public health officials over whether his shop was complying with COVID-19 restrictions.

Mermigis said Elmendorf is not guilty of any of the criminal charges, which remain pending.

(Reporting by Joseph Ax; Editing by Aurora Ellis)

© Copyright Thomson Reuters 2021

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