White woman who called police on Black birder in NYC's Central Park charged with filing false report
Video of May 25 confrontation went viral
A white woman who called the police during a videotaped dispute with a Black man — over walking her dog without a leash in New York City's Central Park — was charged Monday with filing a false police report.
In May, Amy Cooper drew widespread condemnation for frantically calling 911 to claim she was being threatened by "an African-American man," birdwatcher Christian Cooper. On the video he recorded of the woman, he sounds calm and appears to keep a safe distance from her.
District Attorney Cyrus Vance Jr. said in a statement on Monday that his office had charged her with falsely reporting the confrontation. Filing a false report is a Class A misdemeanor punishable by up to one year in jail.
She was ordered to appear in court on Oct. 14.
"We are strongly committed to holding perpetrators of this conduct accountable," Vance said in a statement.
After the backlash, Cooper was fired from her job and released an apology through a public relations service, saying she "reacted emotionally and made false assumptions about his intentions."
WATCH | Black birdwatchers push back against stereotypes, racism:
"He had every right to request that I leash my dog in an area where it was required," she said in the written statement. "I am well aware of the pain that misassumptions and insensitive statements about race cause and would never have imagined that I would be involved in the type of incident that occurred with Chris."
The 911 call inspired New York state lawmakers in June to pass a law that makes it easier under civil rights law to sue an individual who calls a police officer on someone "without reason" because of their background, including race and national origin.
The new law, which the governor also signed last month, holds an individual who makes such 911 calls liable "for injunctive relief, damages, or any other appropriate relief" in a civil lawsuit.
Amy Cooper was charged under an existing false-report law that's been long on the books and doesn't reference race.
Woman's lawyer criticizes 'rush to judgment'
In a statement on Monday, Amy Cooper's lawyer Robert Barnes said she would be found not guilty, and faulted a "rush to judgment" by some about the case.
"She lost her job, her home and her public life. Now some demand her freedom?" Barnes said. "How many lives are we going to destroy over misunderstood 60-second videos on social media?"
The confrontation began early one morning when Christian Cooper said he noticed Amy Cooper had let her cocker spaniel off its leash against the rules in the Ramble, a secluded section of Central Park popular with birdwatchers.
In the video, which has more than 44.7 million views on Twitter, he claimed the dog was "tearing through the plantings" and told her she should go to another part of the park. When she refused, he pulled out dog treats, causing her to scream at him to not come near her dog.
She also warned him she would summon police unless he stopped recording.
"I'm going to tell them there's an African-American man threatening my life," she is heard saying in the video as she pulls down her face mask and struggles to control her dog.
"Please call the cops," Christian Cooper said.
"There's an African-American man, I'm in Central Park, he is recording me and threatening myself and my dog … Please send the cops immediately!" she said during the call before he stopped recording.
Police said by the time they responded, they were both gone.
With files from Reuters