A woman has been terminated by her employer after a video appearing to show her calling the police on a Black man who asked her to leash her dog went viral Monday.
Christian Cooper, who claims he is the man behind the video, wrote on Facebook that he encountered the woman and her dog in the Ramble, a nature reserve within Manhattan’s Central Park where dogs are required to be leashed. Cooper’s sister, Melody Cooper, who also posted the video, said her brother is an “avid” bird watcher and “politely asked (the woman) to put her dog on the leash.”
Christian Cooper wrote on Facebook that after the woman refused to leash her dog and take it to an off-leash area, he offered the dog a treat. After she loudly told him not to touch her dog, Cooper says he started recording.
In the video, the woman comes toward the camera while telling the person behind the camera to stop filming. After the person asks her not to come closer, the woman pulls out her phone and says she’s going to tell police that “there is an African-American man threatening my life.” The man tells her to “tell them whatever you like.”
The woman then moves away from the person filming to make the call, dragging the dog by the collar.
The woman can be heard repeatedly claiming the man is “threatening me and my dog.” Despite no signs that the man filming her, or anyone else, is advancing towards her, the woman becomes louder as she talks into the phone.
“Please send the cops immediately!” she yells as she puts a leash on her dog, which prompts the person recording the video to thank her.
The New York Police Department told Global News they were, indeed, called to the Ramble on Monday morning, but no arrests were made and no complaint was filed as nothing criminal occurred. Neither the woman nor the man filming were in the Ramble when officers arrived, the department added.
The video had been viewed roughly 15 million times by the end of day Monday. It also prompted widespread criticism of the woman’s actions on social media, with many calling them racist.
Social media users quickly identified the woman as Amy Cooper — no relation to Christian or Melody Cooper — as an employee at Franklin Templeton, an investment firm in New York. The firm’s website crashed and stayed down for hours Monday evening after social media users urged their followers to demand the company fire the woman.
The company initially said it had put the woman on “administrative leave,” pending an investigation into the incident. On Tuesday afternoon, it announced she was fired.
“We do not tolerate racism of any kind at Franklin Templeton,” a tweet from the company read.
Abandoned Angels, an animal rescue society in New York, was also flooded with calls and messages after it was discovered the woman’s dog had been adopted from the centre.
A statement posted on social media said that the woman voluntarily surrendered the dog back to the society, and the dog is “safe and in good health.”
Global News has not heard back from Christian Cooper, Melody Cooper or Amy Cooper.
However, in an interview with NBC New York, Amy Cooper apologized for her behaviour and admitted she overreacted — although she claimed the man she encountered was screaming at her.
“I sincerely and humbly apologize to everyone, especially to that man, his family,” she said in a phone call.
“It was unacceptable and I humbly and fully apologize to everyone who’s seen that video, everyone that’s been offended… everyone who thinks of me in a lower light, and I understand why they do.”
She also said she recognized she is a “blessed person” when it comes to her relationship with the police, who she views as “a protection agency.”
“Unfortunately, this has caused me to realize that there are so many people in this country that don’t have that luxury,” she said.
The number of high-profile incidents of police shootings and other police interactions with racialized people across the U.S. has been a pressing national issue.
Data shows that minorities are disproportionately targeted, subjected to excessive use of force or killed by police.
Christian Cooper told NBC New York that he offered the dog a treat so that the woman would have no choice but to leash her pet.
He said the death of Ahmaud Arbery, a Black man who was out jogging when two men in Georgia shot him, made him feel he wasn’t going to be intimidated “because of assumptions people make about Black men, Black people.”
“I’m just not going to participate in that,” Christian Cooper said.
The Arbery case garnered international attention after video of the man’s death surfaced online, prompting outcry and accusations of racial injustice.
Melody Cooper wrote on Twitter that her brother “is fine and left to continue birding after she leashed her dog.”
“All she had to do was put her poor dog on a leash,” she added.