Conversations around race and racial justice

White woman who called police on black bird-watcher in Central Park has been fired

Video of Amy Cooper calling the police Monday on a man has gone viral on social media. The man says he asked Cooper to put her dog on a leash in New York's Central Park.
Video of Amy Cooper calling the police Monday on a man has gone viral on social media. The man says he asked Cooper to put her dog on a leash in New York's Central Park.
Christian Cooper via Facebook | Screenshot by NPR

Updated at 7:58 p.m. ET

A black man says he asked a white woman in Central Park to put her dog on a leash.

Then video shows her calling police and telling emergency operators that the man was threatening her and her dog. The woman, who has been identified as Amy Cooper, has apologized. But by Tuesday afternoon she was fired from her job at an investment management firm, the employer said.

The man who shot the video of the encounter, Christian Cooper, told NPR Tuesday evening, what the woman did was "pretty crappy without a doubt." But he wonders if the response to her actions was "really proportionate."

"I'm not sure that her one minute of poor decision-making, bad judgment and, without question, racist response necessarily has to define her completely," Christian Cooper said.

Her now former employer, Franklin Templeton, said in a statement posted to Twitter she had been fired, less than a day after announcing she was placed on administrative leave.

"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," the company said.

After video of the encounter was posted to social media, Amy Cooper said her behavior was "unacceptable."

"And you know words are just words and I can't undo what I did. But I sincerely and humbly apologize to everyone. Especially to that man, his family," she said in an interview with NBC New York on Monday evening.

NPR has requested comment from Amy Cooper but she has not immediately responded.

Christian Cooper said he found the level of attention his recorded interaction with the woman is "a little stunning" and also shared empathy for Amy Cooper.

"It makes me concerned because if it was this stunning for me, I can only imagine what it must have been like for Ms. Cooper," Christian Cooper said.

"I know I'm not supposed to feel that way, but, you know, it's got to be harsh."

Video of the encounter

Since Christian Cooper recorded part of their encounter Monday, it has since been viewed hundreds of thousands of times on social media.

The Ramble is a wooded area of Central Park, where dogs are required to be leashed. According to Christian Cooper, he started recording after asking the woman to leash her dog.

The woman is seen in the video approaching the man, holding the dog's leash in one hand and pulling her dog by the collar with her other hand.

"Please don't come close to me," he says, appearing not to move closer to her or retreat from her advancement.

As she approaches, she tells him she is going to take a picture of him and call police if he didn't stop recording her.

Christian Cooper tells her calmly, "Please call the cops. Please call the cops."

"I'm going to tell them there's an African American man threatening my life," she responds.

She backs away from him and places the call while continuing to drag the dog by its collar.

"I'm in the Ramble, and there's a man, African American, he's got a bicycle helmet. He's recording me and threatening me and my dog," she said.

She repeats herself once more, though Christian Cooper never appears to come any closer to her.

By the third time, she is yelling into the phone with far more panic in her voice.

"I'm sorry. I can't hear. Are you there? I'm being threatened by a man into the Ramble. Please send the cops immediately!" she screams.

The aftermath of the incident

In a statement to CNN, Amy Cooper said, "I'm not a racist. I did not mean to harm that man in any way," adding she also didn't intend to hurt the African American community.

The encounter is being highlighted as another example of a white person calling law enforcement to report black people for doing seemingly banal things.

"Obviously, I was aware of what the threat was," Christian Cooper said to NPR.

"She was threatening to bring the machine that has so long ground us black people to powder ... solely on the basis of our black skin, down on my head on the word of, you know, an innocent young white woman."

He said in the moment he had a choice, "participate in my own dehumanization" or continue recording until the dog was on the leash.

That is where the video that runs roughly 70 seconds ends, with Amy Cooper putting the leash on her dog and Christian Cooper saying "Thank you."

Amy Cooper's dog with rescue group

Amy Cooper's dog has been "voluntarily surrendered," according to statement posted on Facebook by the Abandoned Angels Cocker Spaniel Rescue Inc.

"As of this evening, the owner has voluntarily surrendered the dog in question to our rescue while this matter is being addressed," the group said.

The dog was adopted from the rescue a few years ago, the group added. It reported the dog is "safe and in good health" and said it will not be making any further statements on the matter.

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