White woman in Central Park called 911 a second time on Black bird-watcher, prosecutors say

Ryan W. Miller, USA TODAY

NEW YORK – Amy Cooper, the white woman in Central Park who called police on a Black man bird-watching, called authorities a second time and falsely accused the man of trying to assault her, prosecutors say.

The woman was arraigned Wednesday and is facing a misdemeanor charge of falsely reporting an incident to police after she called 911 in May and falsely said Christian Cooper, the bird-watcher who asked her to leash her dog in an area that requires that dogs be on leashes, was threatening and tried to attack her.

The two share a last name but are not related.

In a previously unreported detail, Amy Cooper made a second call to 911 in which she falsely said that "an African American man 'tried to assault' her," according to a criminal complaint against her.

After police arrived at the scene, she backtracked and told an officer that the man did not try to assault her or touch her.

Christian Cooper recorded the incident and shared video of it on Facebook, which quickly went viral and led to Amy Cooper's firing from her asset management firm.

The video, however, only showed Amy Cooper falsely saying that Christian Cooper was threatening her, not that he "tried to assault her."

The encounter occurred the same day that George Floyd was killed in Minneapolis as a white police officer dug his knee into Floyd's neck. Video of Floyd's death was also first shared on social media and sparked weeks of unrest across the country demanding racial justice and changes to policing.

"Amy Cooper engaged in racist criminal conduct when she falsely accused a Black man of trying to assault her in a previously unreported second call with a 911 dispatcher," Manhattan District Attorney Cy Vance said in a statement Wednesday.

"Fortunately, no one was injured or killed in the police response to Ms. Cooper’s hoax. Our 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."

Vance's office first announced they were pursuing charges in the case in July. Amy Cooper is facing a class A misdemeanor, which can carry up to a year in prison, according to New York law.

However, Executive Assistant District Attorney Joan Illuzzi said during the Wednesday arraignment that the DA's office would work with the defense on a program for Cooper to take responsibility and "educate her and the community on the harm caused by such actions."

An attorney listed for Cooper did not immediately respond to USA TODAY's request for comment. Cooper did not enter a plea to the misdemeanor charge and is to appear in court again in November.

Cooper quickly apologized for the incident, but her employer, Franklin Templeton, fired her the next day. The video garnered national media attention, and New York Mayor Bill de Blasio condemned Cooper's actions, saying they exemplified hatred that has "no place in our city."

In the video of the incident shared by Christian Cooper, Amy Cooper is seen holding her dog by its collar and approaching Christian Cooper, demanding he stop recording, then quickly dialing 911.

"I'm going to tell them there's an African American man threatening my life," Amy Cooper says in the video.

Christian Cooper said he was in an area of the park called the Ramble known for its bird-watching. However, Cooper said dogs off-leash can disrupt the birds and plants, so when he saw Amy Cooper with her Cocker Spaniel, he asked her to leash the animal.

Before he started filming, Christian Cooper said he pulled out dog treats and offered them to the pet, knowing that many dog owners do not want a stranger to feed their animal so they immediately restrain it.

Amy Cooper refused and instead called police. In the video, Amy Cooper's pleas to the 911 dispatcher become more frantic, and she asks that the dispatcher "please send the cops immediately."

However, once Amy Cooper put the leash on the dog, which had been gasping for air as the woman held its collar, Christian Cooper says, "Thank you" and the video ends.

In a statement issued in May in response to the incident, the New York Police Department said that officers were called to the area just after 8 a.m. When they arrived, "police determined two individuals had engaged in a verbal dispute. There were no arrests or summonses issued; both parties went on their way."

Christian Cooper told NBC New York in the days that followed that he started filming because, "We live in an age of Ahmaud Arbery where Black men are gunned down because of assumptions people make about Black men, Black people, and I’m just not going to participate in that."

However, Christian Cooper has said he is not aiding the Manhattan District Attorney's investigation in any way.

"I’m ambivalent about the prosecution and have chosen not to aid the investigation," he wrote in an op-ed for the Washington Post.

"I think it’s a mistake to focus on this one individual. The important thing the incident highlights is the long-standing, deep-seated racial bias against us Black and brown folk that permeates the United States – bias that can bring horrific consequences, as with the killing of George Floyd in Minneapolis later the same day I encountered Amy Cooper, or just small daily cuts."

Follow USA TODAY's Ryan Miller on Twitter @RyanW_Miller

This article originally appeared on USA TODAY: Amy Cooper called 911 twice on Christian Cooper in Central Park Ramble