Amy Cooper Faces Charges After Calling Police on Black Bird Watcher

Amy Cooper Faces Charges After Calling Police on Black Bird Watcher

A white woman who called the police and falsely accused a Black man of threatening her life after he asked her to put her dog on a leash in Central Park faces a criminal charge, the Manhattan district attorney said on Monday.

Amy Cooper, the woman in the park encounter — which was recorded on video, touching off intense discussions about false police reports made by white people about Black people — will be charged with filing a false report, a misdemeanor punishable by up to a year in jail.

“Today our office initiated a prosecution of Amy Cooper for falsely reporting an incident in the third degree,” Cyrus R. Vance Jr., the district attorney, said. “We are strongly committed to holding perpetrators of this conduct accountable.”

Ms. Cooper, who was issued a desk appearance ticket on Monday, is scheduled to be arraigned on Oct. 14. If convicted, she could receive a conditional discharge or be sentenced to community service or counseling rather than jail time.

The episode occurred on Memorial Day. Ms. Cooper, who had been walking with her dog, encountered Christian Cooper, an avid bird watcher, in the Ramble, a semi-wild part of the park where dogs must be leashed.

Mr. Cooper asked Ms. Cooper, who is not related to him, to leash her dog, he said. When she refused, he said, he tried to lure the dog with treats in hopes of compelling her to restrain her pet.

The encounter turned ugly when Ms. Cooper told Mr. Cooper that she was calling the police and planned to tell them that an African-American man was threatening her life.

Mr. Cooper, who recorded the interaction on his phone, captured what happened next.

“I’m in the Ramble, there is a man, African-American, he has a bicycle helmet and he is recording me and threatening me and my dog,” Ms. Cooper, gripping her dog’s collar tightly, says in a hysterical tone to the 911 operator.

Then, before hanging up, she adds, “I am being threatened by a man in the Ramble, please send the cops immediately!”

“Thank you,” Mr. Cooper says after she puts her dog’s leash on, just before the video ends.

Mr. Cooper, 57, a Harvard graduate who works in communications, has long been a prominent birder in the city and is on the board of the New York City Audubon Society.

Shortly after video of the episode went viral, Ms. Cooper, surrendered her dog, Henry, to the cocker spaniel rescue group she had adopted him from two years earlier. She and the dog have since been reunited.

Ms. Cooper, who had been a head of insurance portfolio management at Franklin Templeton, was fired from her job.

She also issued a public apology and tried to explain her response.

“I reacted emotionally and made false assumptions about his intentions when, in fact, I was the one who was acting inappropriately by not having my dog on a leash,” Ms. Cooper said in the statement.

She added that when Mr. Cooper remarked that she would not like what he was “going to do next” and then offered her dog treats, she assumed he was threatening her. Mr. Cooper said the remark was merely meant to signal that he planned to offer the treats.

“I assumed we were being threatened when all he had intended to do was record our encounter on his phone,” Ms. Cooper said.

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