Amy Cooper, the white woman charged with filing a false police report for calling 911 during a videotaped run-in with a Black birdwatcher in New York’s Central Park, made two calls — not just one — to emergency services claiming spuriously that the man was threatening or assaulting her, prosecutors said Wednesday.
Disclosure of the previously unreported second 911 call came at Cooper’s arraignment. Cooper appeared by video but did not enter a plea to the misdemeanor charge against her. The case, which garnered worldwide attention but had been on hold because of the COVID-19 pandemic, was adjourned until Nov. 17 to allow prosecutors and her lawyer to work on a possible resolution.
Prosecutors said the case could be resolved by Cooper participating in a program to educate her and the community “on the harm caused by such actions.”
Cooper made two 911 calls about her encounter in May with Christian Cooper (no relation), who was in the park birdwatching, prosecutors said. In one of the calls, which was captured on a widely seen video of their exchange, she claimed that Christian Cooper was threatening her, identifying him specifically as “an African American man.”
In the second, previously unreported call, prosecutors said Amy Cooper falsely alleged that the man had “tried to assault her.”
“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 Assistant Dist. Atty. Joan Illuzzi-Orbon, whose last high-profile prosecution sent disgraced Hollywood producer Harvey Weinstein to prison in March for rape.
Illuzzi-Orbon did not go into detail 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 range of options could include some type of racial sensitivity training or a public awareness campaign.
The criminal process “can be an opportunity for introspection and education,” Illuzzi-Orbon said.
In a statement, Manhattan Dist. Atty. Cyrus Vance Jr. said his 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.”
Cooper drew widespread condemnation and was fired from her job at investment firm Franklin Templeton after her encounter with Christian Cooper, who had confronted her for walking her dog without a leash. On the video he recorded of their exchange, he sounded calm and appeared to keep a safe distance from her.
In the video posted on social media, he said her cocker spaniel was “tearing through the plantings” in the Ramble, a secluded section of Central Park popular with birdwatchers, and told her she should go to another part of the park. When she refused, he pulled out dog treats, causing her to scream at him to not come near her dog.
Amy Cooper also warned him she would summon police unless he stopped recording.
“I’m going to tell them there’s an African American man threatening my life,” Amy Cooper is heard saying in the video as she pulls down her face mask and struggles to control her dog.
“Please call the cops,” said Christian Cooper.
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“There’s an African American man, I’m in Central Park, he is recording me and threatening myself and my dog. … Please send the cops immediately!” she said during the 911 call before the recording stops. A 911 dispatcher provided prosecutors with a sworn affidavit regarding the calls.
Police said that by the time officers responded, both Amy Cooper and Christian Cooper were gone.
After the backlash, Amy Cooper released an apology through a public relations service, saying she “reacted emotionally and made false assumptions about his intentions.”
“He had every right to request that I leash my dog in an area where it was required,” she said in the written 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.”
Amy Cooper’s 911 calls, which happened the same day that George Floyd died in Minneapolis police custody, was seen by many as a stark example of everyday racism and fueled outrage in the period leading up to street protests sparked by Floyd’s death.
It also inspired New York state lawmakers in June to pass a law that makes it easier under civil rights law to sue an individual who calls a police officer on someone “without reason” because of their background, including race and national origin.
Cooper was charged under an existing false-report law that’s long been on the books and doesn’t reference race.
“Fortunately, no one was injured or killed in the police response to Ms. Cooper’s hoax,” said Vance.
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