Woman who called police over black birdwatcher is charged

News

A woman who called police and falsely accused an African American man of threatening her life after he asked her to leash her dog in New York city’s Central Park is being criminally charged over the incident.

Amy Cooper, 41, whose actions on 25 May were recorded in a video that went viral and were widely criticized as an example of everyday racism, is being charged with filing a false report, a class A misdemeanor punishable by up to one year in jail.

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

A lawyer for Cooper could not immediately be identified. She is expected to be arraigned on 14 October.

The incident stirred widespread conversations about racism and how white people treat black people in the US, and it followed other memorable instances of white people calling the police after coming upon black people doing everyday things such as jogging, walking in the park or the street, swimming, having a barbecue or merely gardening.

It also occurred a few hours before George Floyd died in Minneapolis, after a police officer knelt on his neck for almost nine minutes, setting off mass protests across the country.

Cooper had been walking her dog in an area of Central Park known as the Ramble when she encountered Christian Cooper, a black man and avid birdwatcher.

Christian Cooper, who is not related to Amy Cooper, asked her to leash her dog, and when she refused offered the dog treats.

The video showed Amy Cooper telling him she would tell the police an African American man was threatening her life, which was false, and then calling 911, where she used “African American” to describe Cooper.

As the woman became agitated, Cooper remained calm and recorded part of the incident. Posted to Twitter by his sister, Melody Cooper, the footage was viewed more than 20m times.

Amy Cooper was fired from her job at Franklin Templeton a day after the incident, when she also publicly apologized.

Christian Cooper described the beginning of the encounter, which was not recorded, in a post on Facebook. He said he saw the dog “tearing through the plantings” and told the owner dogs should be leashed at all times, noting: “The sign is right there.” After an exchange of remarks, he began recording.

“I don’t think there’s an African American person in America who hasn’t experienced something like this at some point,” he told the Washington Post, adding that he often asks dog owners use leashes in the Ramble.

“I don’t shy away from confronting the scofflaw when I see it,” he said, using a term for someone who ignores laws which are hard to enforce. “Otherwise, the park would be unusable – not just to us birders but to anybody who enjoys the beauty.”