Charges dismissed against woman who called police on Black man in Central Park

Credit: AJC

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Amy Cooper: Officials plan to file charges after false report against Black man

Credit: AJC

Criminal charges have been dismissed against Amy Cooper, the New York woman who called police on a Black bird-watcher in Central Park last year, falsely claiming he had threatened her life.

Cooper, who faced one count of filing a false police report, had the charge dismissed Tuesday by a Manhattan Criminal Court judge after prosecutors said she completed educational therapy on racial biases, according to The New York Times.

The program Cooper completed highlighted the important role that racial identities play in society, according to an assistant district attorney who spoke at the hearing. She attended five sessions with a licensed therapist who described it as “a moving experience” and that Cooper “learned a lot,” the Times reported.

Cooper was given the option to complete the program partially because she had a clean record, according to prosecutor Joan Illuzzi-Orbon.

The reconciliation program is an alternative to traditional prosecution which allows “restorative justice” for the offender in cases where little harm resulted to the victim and the community at large, the Times reported.

In a statement on Twitter, Cooper’s lawyer Robert Barnes thanked the Manhattan district attorney’s office for “a thorough & honest inquiry.”

“We thank them for their integrity and concur w/ the outcome,” he wrote. “Others rushed to the wrong conclusion based on inadequate investigation & they may yet face legal consequences.”

What happened

The incident happened on Memorial Day, hours before George Floyd’s death.

Cooper was fired from her job at global investment firm Franklin Templeton after video emerged of her confronting the bird-watcher, who politely asked if she could put her dog on a leash as Central Park rules require.

Instead, she called police.

The viral footage of the confrontation, which was viewed millions of times, shows Cooper angrily approach Christian Cooper and threaten to call the police for no reason.

The next day, she publicly apologized for the incident in which she told the other Cooper: “I’m taking a picture and calling the cops,” she said before placing the call. “I’m going to tell them there’s an African American man threatening my life.”

During the brief exchange, Amy Cooper yanked her dog by the collar several times and then falsely told emergency dispatchers that her life was in danger.

As Christian Cooper began filming the episode, Amy Cooper can be seen grabbing her dog by the collar and lifting the animal off its front legs as she marched toward the man.

“Please don’t come close to me,” Christian Cooper is heard saying as the woman advances and points her finger at him, the video shows.

The two continue to exchange words until Amy Cooper, who was still holding the dog by the collar, retreated a few yards and called authorities.

The video shows Christian Cooper never moved toward the woman as she tussled with the dog, who had become agitated. When Amy Cooper finally got emergency dispatchers on the phone, she sounded distressed and out of breath.

She then told authorities that an African American man with a bicycle helmet was recording her and “threatening myself and my dog.”

“Please send the cops immediately!” she yelled to the dispatcher.

At that moment, Cooper hitched her dog’s collar again, and the animal struggled to break free from her grasp.

“I’m being threatened by a man in the Ramble,” Amy Cooper yelled to the dispatcher while struggling to leash the dog. “Please send the cops immediately!” she yelled again.

The aftermath

After the incident, Christian Cooper shared the footage to his Facebook page, where it was viewed more than 30 million times. The short video shows Amy Cooper angrily approach him, point in his face and threaten to call the police. Christian Cooper can be heard exchanging words with the woman, but he never raised his voice or took any steps toward her.

Amy Cooper later said her “entire life is being destroyed.” Social media activists also took snapshots of her Facebook profile, which were widely shared to shame her.

Comments on Facebook and Twitter said the incident was a familiar reprise in modern society, in which someone who is white calls authorities as a way of weaponizing the police against Black people.

Perpetrators of the incidents are now commonly referred to as “Karens.”

Days after the incident, New York lawmakers introduced legislation that would make false police reports against people of color a hate crime.

Christian Cooper publicly condemned death threats she received in the days after the video emerged and also refused to cooperate with the prosecution against her, saying that her job loss, public embarrassment and charges were punishment enough.

“On the one hand, she’s already paid a steep price. That’s not enough of a deterrent to others? Bringing her more misery just seems like piling on. ... If the DA feels the need to pursue charges, he should pursue charges. But he can do that without me,” Christian Cooper said at the time.

He said his own awareness of racial profiling in America led him to record the confrontation with Amy Cooper. “I videotaped it because I thought it was important to document things,” Christian Cooper told CNN after the incident. “Unfortunately, we live in an era with things like Ahmaud Arbery, where Black men are seen as targets,” he said, referring to the young Black man who was shot to death in February 2020 while jogging through a neighborhood in Brunswick, Georgia. “This woman thought she could exploit that to her advantage, and I wasn’t having it,” he said.

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