A white woman called the police and accused a Black man of threatening her and her dog in New York City’s Central Park, as seen in now-viral footage posted to social media on Monday. The man said the confrontation began when he asked her to put her dog on a leash.
The footage was published on Facebook by the man, Christian Cooper, and on Twitter by his sister, Melody Cooper. The video was viewed on Twitter more than 10 million times by late Monday and sparked widespread outrage.
It begins with the dog walker, later identified as Amy Cooper, dragging her dog by the collar toward the man and demanding that he stop filming.
“Please don’t come close to me,” the man is heard repeatedly saying as she approaches.
She asks him to stop filming several times and then threatens to call the police. “I’m going to tell them there’s an African American man threatening my life,” she says.
“Please tell them whatever you like,” he responds.
Then, on her phone, the dog walker says: “I’m in the Ramble and there is a man ― African American, he has a bicycle helmet ― he is recording me and threatening me and my dog.”
A New York police spokesperson said the NYPD was called to the Central Park Ramble for a report of an assault just after 8 a.m. Monday. On arrival, they determined two people had engaged in a verbal dispute. There was no crime and no arrests, the spokesperson said.
According to the Central Park website, dogs must be leashed at all times in the Ramble. The woman is also seen repeatedly dragging her struggling dog by its collar during the video and later attaches the leash.
Melody Cooper said her brother is an avid birder and had politely requested that the woman put her dog on a leash, in accordance with signs in the park. Christian Cooper said the dog was “tearing through the plantings in the Ramble” when he asked the woman to leash her pet. He also said he had pulled out dog treats which he carries for these situations.
The incident was met with swift backlash on social media.
Christian Cooper told NBC New York Monday night that he continued filming because he wasn’t going to be intimidated.
“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,” he said.
Amy Cooper told NBC New York she overreacted. She claimed Christian Cooper was screaming and said she felt threatened because she didn’t know what was in the dog treats.
“I sincerely and humbly apologize to everyone, especially to that man, his family,” she told the news station 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.”
Investment management company Franklin Templeton, which social media users identified as Amy Cooper’s employer, issued a statement late on Monday that an employee had been put on administrative leave while an incident was being investigated.
A New York dog rescue organization, the Abandoned Angels Cocker Spaniel Rescue, said the dog in question had been voluntarily surrendered while the matter was being addressed.