A Second 911 Birdwatcher Call

DA reveals white woman claimed a Black birder in Central Park tried to assault her, charged with falsely filing police report

16 Oct 2020 | 06:39

The white woman who called the police on a Black birdwatcher in Central Park back in May was arraigned remotely in Manhattan Criminal Court this week on a misdemeanor charge. During the arraignment, prosecutors revealed that Amy Cooper, 41, made a second, and previously unreported, 911 call in which she claimed the birdwatcher tried to assault her.

Subsequently, the Manhattan District Attorney’s office charged Cooper with falsely filing a police report, which carries a maximum sentence of a year in jail.

The incident not only blew up Cooper’s life — as she was fired from her job and temporarily lost custody of her dog — but it became a viral moment, sparking a national conversation about the power dynamics involved when a white person calls the police on a Black person and how doing so could have damaging, and sometimes fatal, consequences. The police killing of George Floyd on that very same day punctuated this point.

The birdwatcher, Christian Cooper (who has no relation to Amy Cooper), filmed the interaction and posted it to his Facebook page. He described the encounter, saying when he came upon Amy Cooper and her unleashed dog in the Ramble, he told her dogs needed to be leashed in the area at all times and pointed to the sign. Amy Cooper said since the dog runs were closed due to the pandemic, that her dog needed off-leash exercise. When the video begins, Amy Cooper tells him to stop recording and approaches the birdwatcher. He says, “Please don’t come close to me.” She says if he doesn’t stop recording she will call the police. “I’m going to tell them there’s an African-American man threatening my life,” she said.

Throughout the interaction, Christian Cooper remained distanced from the woman and watched as she holds her dog by the collar and calls 911.

“I’m in the Ramble and there’s a man — an African American man — he has a bicycle helmet ... he’s recording me and threatening me and my dog,” Amy Cooper tells the dispatch operator. Her voice becomes increasingly distressed as the call carries on. “There’s an African-American man, I’m in Central Park, and he’s recording me and threatening myself and my dog! I’m being threatened by a man in Central Park! Please send the cops immediately!”

Amy Cooper then leashes her dog, Christian Cooper says “Thank you,” and the video ends.

The second 911 call was not filmed.

“Racist Criminal Conduct”

“As alleged in the Complaint and as stated on the record in court by Executive Assistant D.A. Joan Illuzzi, Ms. Cooper called 911 and told a NYPD dispatcher that a Black male was threatening her inside the Central Park Ramble,” the Manhattan District Attorney’s Office disclosed in a press release. “In a previously unreported second phone call, Ms. Cooper repeated the accusation and added that the man ‘tried to assault her.’ When responding officers arrived, Ms. Cooper admitted that the male had not ‘tried to assault’ or come into contact with her.

District Attorney Cyrus Vance said Amy Cooper had engaged in “racist criminal conduct.”

“Fortunately, no one was injured or killed in the police response to Ms. Cooper’s hoax,” Vance said in a statement. “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.”

Following the incident in May, Christian Cooper wrote an op-ed in the Washington Post, saying he was ambivalent about the prosecution and has chosen not to aid in the investigation.

“I’ve said all along that I think it’s a mistake to focus on this one individual,” Cooper wrote. “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.”

Cooper also stated in the piece that he wasn’t sure what would be gained from pursuing criminal charges when Amy Cooper had already lost her job.

“If her current setbacks aren’t deterrent enough to others seeking to weaponize race, it’s unlikely the threat of legal action would change that,” he wrote.

According to a report from the New York Post, the D.A.’s office is talks with Cooper’s attorney to find “a program that would have her take responsibility for her actions and educate her and the public.”

Amy Cooper’s next court hearing is expected to take place on Nov. 17.

“Fortunately, no one was injured or killed in the police response to Ms. Cooper’s hoax.” Manhattan D.A. Cyrus Vance, in a statement