Amy Cooper charged with making a false report after calling cops on Black birder in Central Park

The incident, recorded hours before Minneapolis cops were called on George Floyd, sparked a national debate on race

Published July 6, 2020 6:37PM (EDT)

Video of Amy Cooper with her dog in Central Park was widely shared on social media on Monday. (Twitter/@melodyMcooper)
Video of Amy Cooper with her dog in Central Park was widely shared on social media on Monday. (Twitter/@melodyMcooper)

Amy Cooper, the white woman who was recorded calling the police on a Black bird watcher after he asked her to leash her dog in Central Park, has been charged with a misdemeanor for making a false police report, the Manhattan District Attorney's office announced.

"Today, our office initiated a prosecution of Amy Cooper for falsely reporting an incident in the third degree," Manhattan DA Cy Vance said in a Monday statement.

The incident, caught on camera hours before Minneapolis police were called on George Floyd for allegedly passing a counterfeit bill, sparked a national debate on racial bias in policing that exploded into widespread protests and social tumult following Floyd's death in custody.

The birdwatcher — Christian Cooper, a black man of no relation — recorded the encounter on his phone. After his sister posted footage of the incident on Twitter, it was viewed more than 25 million times in 24 hours. Another chapter in an ongoing narrative of police being called on black Americans for "living while black" quickly became a cultural flashpoint.

Christian Cooper had been birdwatching early Monday morning in the Ramble, a bosky, secluded area in Central Park which draws hundreds of species of birds, when he encountered Amy Cooper and her dog. The white cocker spaniel mix was not on a leash, a violation of park rules posted on several conspicuous signs in the area — and one which the dog owner herself has acknowledged.

Christian Cooper told CNN that he pulled out dog treats, which he keeps on him for exactly such an occasion. They excite dogs, forcing defiant owners to restrain them.

"I'm taking a picture and calling the cops," Amy Cooper says on the video, suggesting possible consequences. "I'm going to tell them there's an African-American man threatening my life."

"Please tell them whatever you like," he replies.

She then raised her phone to place the call.

"There's a man — African-American — he has a bicycle helmet," she says. "He is recording me and threatening me and my dog."

"I'm being threatened by a man in the Ramble," she continues. "Please send the cops immediately."

Eventually, she leashes her dog.

"Thank you," Christian Cooper says as he stops the recording.

By the time officers from the New York Police Department arrived, both of the individuals had left.

Amy Cooper later apologized in a 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," she wrote. "I hope that a few mortifying seconds in a lifetime of 40 years will not define me in his eyes and that he will accept my sincere apology."

In an interview with CBS This Morning's Gayle King, Christian Cooper called it "unmistakably racist."

"I don't know whether she's a racist or not," he said. "I don't know her life. I don't know how she lives it. That act was unmistakably racist, even if she didn't realize it in the moment."

Earlier that month, Georgia law enforcement arrested white former police officer Gregory McMichael and his son in the murder of Ahmaud Arbery, a 25-year-old black man who was killed while jogging through a tree-lined Brunswick neighborhood. McMichael had told police that he believed Arbery was a burglary suspect. The Department of Justice is reportedly investigating the killing of Ahmaud Arbery as a possible federal hate crime.

Amy Cooper's arraignment is scheduled Oct. 14, per Vance's statement.

"At this time I would like to encourage anyone who has been the target of false reporting to contact our office," Vance said. "We are strongly committed to holding perpetrators of this conduct accountable."

By Roger Sollenberger

Roger Sollenberger was a staff writer at Salon (2020-21). Follow him on Twitter @SollenbergerRC.

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