Charges were dismissed Tuesday against Amy Cooper, the white woman who called police on a Black birdwatcher in Central Park last May, after she completed a psycho-education and therapy program focused on racial equity, prosecutors said.
Cooper was facing a misdemeanor charge of falsely reporting an incident to police after prosecutors said she twice called 911 falsely claiming that Christian Cooper was threatening and tried to attack her.
Christian Cooper, who is not related to Amy Cooper, said he asked the woman to leash her dog in an area of the park that requires dogs to be on leashes. He filmed the incident and posted it on Facebook, which quickly went viral and led to Amy Cooper’s firing from her asset management company.
Assistant District Attorney Joan Illuzzi told a judge Tuesday that Amy Cooper completed five therapy sessions that “focused on the ways in which Ms. Cooper could appreciate that racial identities shape our lives but we cannot use them to harm ourselves or others.”
Illuzzi asked that the misdemeanor charge be dismissed citing Cooper’s cooperation in the program, and the judge granted the motion.Manhattan District Attorney Cy Vance had previously said that Cooper “engaged in racist criminal conduct” when she reported Christian Cooper to police.
An attorney for Cooper, Robert Barnes, praised the decision and the district attorney’s office after “a thorough & honest inquiry.”
“We thank them for their integrity & concur w/ the outcome. Others rushed to the wrong conclusion based on inadequate investigation & they may yet face legal consequences,” Barnes tweeted.
In the video, Amy Cooper was seen calling 911 and frantically pleading, “please send the cops immediately,” as she falsely claimed that Christian Cooper had threatened her and her dog.
The incident 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 months of unrest across the country demanding racial justice and changes to policing.
Prosecutors first announced in July they were pursuing charges in the Cooper case, and the class A misdemeanor Amy Cooper had faced could carry up to a year in prison.
Illuzzi said the office opted for the therapy program instead, given Cooper’s lack of a criminal history.
Cooper apologized shortly after video of the incident spread on social media. However, her employer, Franklin Templeton, fired her the next day. The video garnered national media attention, and New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio condemned Cooper’s actions, saying they exemplified hatred that has “no place in our city.”
Christian Cooper, however, declined to participate in the prosecution.
“I think it’s a mistake to focus on this one individual,” he wrote in an Op-Ed for the Washington Post in July.
“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 previously told NBC New York 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.”
The incident occurred in the Ramble, an area of Central Park known for its bird watching. Christian Cooper said dogs off leashes can disrupt birds, so when he saw Amy Cooper with her dog, he asked her to put a leash on it.
When Amy Cooper refused, 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 instead called police. “I’m going to tell them there’s an African American man threatening my life,” Amy Cooper said in the video.
As the video continued, Cooper’s pleas to the 911 operator became more frantic, and she gripped her dog’s collar tighter as the animal appeared to gasp for air. The video ended when Christian Cooper stopped filming immediately after Amy Cooper put the leash on her dog.
However, prosecutors revealed in October that Amy Cooper called 911 a second time. In the second call, 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.
No arrests were made at the time, but prosecutors said that the call could have endangered Christian Cooper. “Certainly, he would have been held and held forcibly if he resisted,” Illuzzi said Tuesday.
Illuzzi said the prosecutor’s office pursued charges in the case because Amy Cooper’s actions posed a threat to the community if they went unchecked.
The therapy program was sought as a solution, rather than a criminal sentence, “not just to punish but to educate and promote community healing,” Illuzzi said