A woman who called police Monday claiming “there’s an African American man threatening my life” was fired from her job Tuesday after video emerged of her confronting a bird-watcher who politely asked if she could put her dog on a leash as park rules required.
Amy Cooper was terminated from the global investment firm Franklin Templeton after video of the incident in New York’s Central Park on Memorial Day went viral on social media.
The footage, which has been viewed millions of times shows Cooper angrily approach the man, now identified as Christian Cooper, and threaten to call the police.
According to a statement released on Twitter, Franklin Templeton has fired Cooper for her actions.
“Following our internal review of the incident in Central Park yesterday, we have made the decision to terminate the employee involved, effective immediately. We do not tolerate racism of any kind at Franklin Templeton.”
Cooper’s dismissal came a day after she publicly apologized for the incident in which she told the other Cooper: “I’m taking a picture and calling the cops,” she is heard saying in the video. “I’m going to tell them there’s an African American man threatening my life.”
The argument began about 7:30 a.m. Monday after Amy Cooper and her dog entered an area of the park called the Ramble, which is a designated bird-watching area where dogs are required to be leashed.
Despite signs posted in the area, Cooper’s dog was roaming free and “tearing through the plantings in the Ramble,” Christian Cooper alleged.
Amy Cooper did later admit in an interview with CNN that her dog was unleashed.
“He was running in an open field. This man, he was bird-watching. He came out of the bush,” adding that Christian Cooper was screaming at her, which he denied, saying he asked politely.
The two strangers who are not related exchanged words after Amy Cooper initially refused to comply with park rules and leash the dog. That’s when Christian Cooper said he pulled dog treats from his pocket in order to lure the woman’s pet away from the area.
From there Christian Cooper said he pulled out his smartphone and started recording.
Amy Cooper can be seen grabbing the dog by the collar and lifting the animal off his front legs as she dragged him toward Christian Cooper.
“Please don’t come close to me,” the man is heard saying as Cooper continues to approach and point a finger at the man.
The two continue to argue until Amy Cooper, who was still holding the dog by the neck, retreated a few yards and called authorities.
The video shows Christian Cooper never moved toward the woman as she tussled with the agitated dog.
When emergency dispatchers finally answered, Amy Cooper sounded distressed and out of breath.
She 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!”
At that moment, Amy Cooper hitches the dog’s collar again and the animal struggles to break free from her grasp.
“I’m being threatened by a man in the Ramble,” Amy Cooper yells to the dispatcher while struggling to leash the dog. “Please send the cops immediately!”
But when officers with the New York Police Department arrived, both parties had already left the scene.
There were no citations or arrests, but Christian Cooper posted the footage to Facebook, where it was shared and recirculated across the internet.
The resulting firestorm throughout the day led to Amy Cooper’s suspension from Franklin Templeton Investments. She also voluntarily surrendered her dog back to the shelter where she adopted him a few years ago, according to news reports.
Facebook users reached out to the rescue, which said it would keep the dog while the matter is addressed.
“The dog is now in our rescue’s care and he is safe and in good health,” the post said.
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A statement later issued by the company said: “We take these matters very seriously, and we do not condone racism of any kind.”
Since the incident, Amy Cooper says her “entire life is being destroyed.”
Snapshots of her Facebook profile have been widely shared.
Comments on Facebook and Twitter said the incident was another example of a familiar reprise in modern society where someone who is white calls authorities as a way of weaponizing the police against black people.
"I videotaped it because I thought it was important to document things," Christian Cooper told CNN. "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 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.
Later Monday, in a call with NBC New York, Amy Cooper said she “humbly and fully apologizes to everyone who’s seen that video.”
“I’m not a racist. I did not mean to harm that man in any way,” she said. “I think I was just scared,” Amy Cooper said. “When you’re alone in the Ramble, you don’t know what’s happening. It’s not excusable, it’s not defensible.”
Two similar incidents from April 2018 also received major media attention.
Two black men were arrested in a Philadelphia Starbucks after the coffee shop’s manager called 911 to report them for trespassing when they were actually at the establishment for a business meeting.
Later, a woman in Oakland, California, called the police on two black men barbecuing, alleging they were trespassing and that they were breaking the law by barbecuing with a charcoal grill.