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Amy Cooper Criminally Charged for Calling Police on Black Bird-Watcher in Central Park

Ms. Cooper, a white woman, faces misdemeanor charges for filing a false report; her actions sparked a wave of backlash on social media

By Deanna Paul, Wall Street Journal

Amy Cooper, the white woman who falsely accused a Black bird-watcher of threatening her life in Central Park, faces misdemeanor charges for filing a false report, the Manhattan district attorney’s office said Monday.

The Memorial Day encounter was filmed by Christian Cooper, who has described himself as an avid bird-watcher. Mr. Cooper, no relation, had asked that Ms. Cooper leash her dog, as required by park regulations. The 41-year-old woman responded by informing him that she planned to call the police, according to video footage taken by Mr. Cooper.

“I’m going to tell them there’s an African-American man threatening my life,” she told him, then pulled out her cellphone and dialed 911.

Ms. Cooper told the emergency operator that she was “being threatened by a man in the Ramble,” a section of the New York City park, and described Mr. Cooper as African-American. “Please send the cops immediately,” she said, according to the widely shared video.

The incident sparked outrage online, with some people noting that it was the latest instance of a white person calling the police on a Black person engaged in an everyday activity after a similar thing had happened to others who were sitting at Starbucks, renting an Airbnb and sleeping on a dormitory couch.

Ms. Cooper’s false allegation, they said, could have led to a violent, or even deadly, police encounter. Later that day, a video of a white Minneapolis police officer kneeling on the neck of George Floyd, a handcuffed Black man who died shortly afterward, went viral.

“I reacted emotionally and made false assumptions about his intentions when, in fact, I was the one who was acting inappropriately by not having my dog on a leash,” Ms. Cooper said in an apology issued May 26. “I assumed we were being threatened when all he had intended to do was record our encounter on his phone.”

Her employer, the investment firm Franklin Templeton, fired her the day after the incident.

“Today our office initiated a prosecution of Amy Cooper for falsely reporting an incident in the third degree,” said Manhattan District Attorney Cyrus R. Vance. “We are strongly committed to holding perpetrators of this conduct accountable.”

Ms. Cooper is scheduled to be arraigned Oct. 14 at Manhattan Criminal Court on the false reporting charge. If convicted, she faces up to a year in jail.

This article originally appeared in the Wall Street Journal.

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