NEW YORK — Amy Cooper, the white woman who called police on a Black bird-watcher in Central Park, made a second, previously unreported call to 911 in which she falsely claimed that the man “tried to assault her,” a prosecutor said Wednesday.
“The defendant twice reported that an African American man was putting her in danger, first by stating that he was threatening her and her dog, then making a second call indicating that he tried to assault her in the Ramble area of the park,” Joan Illuzzi, a senior prosecutor, said.
Cooper, who appeared in Manhattan Criminal Court remotely to answer a misdemeanor charge that she had filed a false report, was negotiating a possible plea deal with prosecutors that would allow her to avoid jail, the prosecutor said.
Illuzzi said that Cooper had used police in a way that was “both racially offensive and designed to intimidate” and her actions were “something that can’t be ignored.”
Still, Illuzzi told the court that the Manhattan district attorney’s office was exploring a resolution to the case that would require Cooper to publicly take responsibility for her actions in court and attend a program to educate her on how harmful they were.
“We hope this process will enlighten, heal and prevent similar harm to our community in the future,” Illuzzi said.
The case was adjourned until Nov. 17 to give Cooper’s lawyer, Robert Barnes, and prosecutors time to work out the details of an agreement.
The news of the second call was the latest development in the Memorial Day weekend encounter that had resonated across the country and reignited discussions about the potential danger of false accusations made to police about Black people.
Cooper was filmed calling 911 from an isolated area in Central Park after a Black man asked her to leash her dog, as the rules required. During the first call, she said multiple times that an “African American man” was threatening her, emphasizing his race to the operator as she raised her voice frantically.
Video of the encounter, shot by the man, Christian Cooper, on his phone, has been viewed more than 44 million times. Its timing, one day before protests erupted nationwide over the killing of George Floyd in Minneapolis, only deepened its role in sparking outrage over what many viewed as an example of everyday racism. (Amy Cooper is not related to Christian Cooper.)
But in a second call to 911, which was not shown in the video of the confrontation, Amy Cooper told a dispatcher that Christian Cooper was putting her in danger and claimed that he tried to assault her, according to a criminal complaint filed by the district attorney’s office.
When police arrived, however, Cooper told an officer that her reports were untrue and that Christian Cooper had not touched or assaulted her, the complaint says.
In July, the Manhattan district attorney charged Cooper with filing a false report, a misdemeanor punishable by up to a year in jail. The criminal charge, which did not change despite the evidence of Cooper’s second 911 call, was among the first that a white person in the United States has faced for wrongfully making a complaint to police about a Black person.
“We will hold people who make false and racist 911 calls accountable,” the Manhattan district attorney, Cyrus R. Vance Jr., said in a statement Wednesday. “Fortunately, no one was injured or killed in the police response to Ms. Cooper’s hoax.”
Her lawyer, Barnes, said in July that she would be found not guilty and criticized what he called a “cancel culture epidemic.”
“How many lives are we going to destroy over misunderstood 60-second videos on social media?” he asked. Barnes did not immediately respond to a request for comment Wednesday.
Vance’s decision to charge Cooper drew mixed reactions from Black community leaders and proponents of overhauling the criminal justice system. He also did not have the support of Christian Cooper, who has long been a prominent birder in the city and sits on the board of the New York City Audubon Society.
As the episode gained widespread attention among state lawmakers and activists across the country, Cooper, who had been a head of insurance portfolio management at Franklin Templeton, lost her job and was publicly shamed. She also surrendered her dog temporarily to the rescue group from which she had adopted him.
At the time, Christian Cooper, a Harvard graduate who works in communications, said that the consequences and public backlash she had faced were already enough. He did not cooperate with the prosecution’s investigation and said in a statement in July that “bringing her more misery just seems like piling on.”
In an interview Wednesday, Christian Cooper declined to answer specific questions about the second 911 call or about Amy Cooper’s potential plea deal. For him, the encounter in Central Park is “not about Amy Cooper,” but about a larger societal problem, he said.
“My response is very simple: We have to make sure we don’t get distracted,” Christian Cooper said. “We have a very important goal — and we have to stay focused on it — which is reforming policing, getting systemic change to the structural racism in our society.”
Weeks after the confrontation, New York state lawmakers approved legislation entitling people to “a private right of action” if they believe someone called police on them because of their race, gender, nationality or any other protected class. The move was a direct response to the Central Park run-in and other false reports to police about Black people.
The clash began as Christian Cooper biked to search for birds in a semi-wild section of the park known as the Ramble, where dogs must be leashed. He encountered Amy Cooper, walking with an unleashed dog, and said in a Facebook post that she refused to put a leash on the dog when asked.
He wrote that he offered the dog treats in an effort to persuade Amy Cooper to follow the area’s rules. Then, video captures her calling 911 and telling an operator, “I’m in the Ramble, there is a man, African American. He has a bicycle helmet, and he is recording me and threatening me and my dog.”
One day after the incident, Amy Cooper issued a public apology.
“I reacted emotionally and made false assumptions about his intentions when, in fact, I was the one who was acting inappropriately by not having my dog on a leash,” Cooper said in the statement. “I am well aware of the pain that misassumptions and insensitive statements about race cause.”
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