What to Know
- Amy Cooper, the white woman seen in a confrontation with Black birdwatcher Christian Cooper last May, will face a misdemeanor charge
- Prosecutors allege Amy Cooper called 911 and said Christian Cooper tried to assault her, before admitting to cops it never happened
- The video of the incident became a global viral sensation and helped spark a broader conversation about the misuse of police as a weapon
The white woman seen calling the NYPD to accuse a Black man of threatening her during a wild caught-on-camera confrontation in Central Park has been charged with falsely accusing him of trying to assault her, the Manhattan district attorney's office said Wednesday.
While it was already known that Amy Cooper called 911 on Christian Cooper in the May incident, the DA's office said Wednesday there was a second call, not previously reported, in which Amy Cooper again claimed Christian Cooper threatened her and also told dispatchers that he "tried to assault her." When police arrived, she admitted there had been no assault and the man did not "come into contact with her," prosecutors said.
She faces a charge of falsely reporting an incident in the 3rd degree, and is scheduled to appear back in court Nov. 17. Attempts to reach her attorney were unsuccessful.
“As alleged in the complaint, Amy Cooper engaged in racist criminal conduct when she falsely accused a Black man of trying to assault her in a previously unreported second call with a 911 dispatcher. Fortunately, no one was injured or killed in the police response to Ms. Cooper’s hoax," DA Cy Vance said in a statement. "Our office will pursue a resolution of this case which holds Ms. Cooper accountable while healing our community, restoring justice, and deterring others from perpetuating this racist practice."
Vance's office said Executive Assistant DA Joan Illuzzi, the chief of the trial division, is personally handling the prosecution of the case. During a hearing Wednesday, prosecutors agreed to adjourn for four weeks while the sides discussed having Amy Cooper participate in some sort of community education and anti-racism program.
“Using the police in a way that is was both racially offensive and designed to intimidate is something that can’t be ignored. Therefore we charged her,” said Illuzzi, whose last high-profile prosecution sent Harvey Weinstein to prison in March for rape.
Illuzzi didn’t get into details on what actions Cooper might be required to take, but said the 40-year-old former investment portfolio manager would have to take responsibility for her actions. The criminal process “can be an opportunity for introspection and education,” Illuzzi said. The range of options could include some type of racial sensitivity training or a public awareness campaign.
Amy Cooper apologized within 24 hours after part of the exchange, captured by Black birdwatcher Christian Cooper, who has no relation to her and was the subject of her tirade, went viral on social media. Outrage mounted, with even elected officials calling for an arrest. She lost her job over it.
Late Wednesday, Christian Cooper released a statement that did not address the court hearing, but rather said in part that his focus "has been and continues to be on fixing policing and addressing systemic racism."
The video shows the now-former insurance company executive frantically telling the NYPD she was being threatened after Christian Cooper asked her to leash her dog while in The Ramble section of the park. Leashing is required in that area.
In the video, Amy Cooper is seen asking Christian Cooper to stop recording her, or she would call the cops and tell them "there's an African American man threatening my life." She repeated the statement several times, each time sounding more distressed, while appearing to call 911 dispatch.
Meanwhile, Christian Cooper didn't appear to move any closer to Amy Cooper. He told NBC New York that he's an avid bird watcher and was in a popular spot for birders the morning of the confrontation. He said he only asked Amy Cooper to put her dog on the leash in the area because it's mandated at all times.
When Amy Cooper refused, he says he offered her dog a treat and started recording the incident. Amy Cooper later told NBC 4 New York she overreacted but claimed the man was screaming and she felt threatened because she didn't know what was in the dog treats. She also denied accusations she was racist.
"I sincerely and humbly apologize to everyone, especially to that man, his family," she said in a phone call. "It was unacceptable and I humbly and fully apologize to everyone who’s seen that video, everyone that’s been offended … everyone who thinks of me in a lower light and I understand why they do."
Christian Cooper said at the time the only way she could have stopped the dog from eating the treat was to put it on the leash, adding, "At some point, she decided I’m gonna play the race card, I guess."
When Christian Cooper refused to stop recording her, Amy Cooper grabbed her dog's collar and moves away from him to call the police, the video shows. At one point, the dog appeared to nearly be choking from the leash pull. Amy Cooper voluntarily surrendered her dog to a shelter after the video sparked cries of animal cruelty, but she later was allowed to take the dog back home.
Christian Cooper said shortly after the confrontation that he continued recording because he wasn't going to be intimidated. "I'm not going to participate in my own dehumanization. I'm not going to feed into this," he said.
"We live in an age of Ahmaud Arbery where Black men are gunned down because of assumptions people make about Black men, Black people, and I’m just not going to participate in that," Christian Cooper told NBC New York.
By the time officers arrived, Christian Cooper had already left. More than 40 million people watched the video within 48 hours of its posting.
Mayor Bill de Blasio described it at the time as "racism, plain and simple."