A video of a woman in Central Park calling New York police on a black man who says he asked her to leash her dog has gone viral, and the woman has been placed on administrative leave.
The incident occurred Monday in the Ramble, a wooded area of Central Park where dogs are required to be on leashes.
Christian Cooper, who is black, said he was bird watching in the area when he saw Amy Cooper, who is white, with her dog. Christian Cooper wrote on Facebook that the dog was going “through the plantings.” He approached the woman and asked that she leash the animal, he said.
In the video, Amy Cooper refused and called 911, telling the operator that “there is an African American man. I am in Central Park. He is recording me and threatening myself and my dog.” At one point, Cooper shouts to the operator, “Please send the cops immediately.”
The video has been viewed more than 20 million times on Twitter, shared by Christian Cooper’s sister Melody.
The video quickly drew reactions online, and Amy Cooper has since apologized and been placed on administrative leave from her work at Franklin Templeton, an asset management firm.
“We take these matters very seriously, and we do not condone racism of any kind,” the company said in a statement on Twitter. “While we are in the process of investigating the situation, the employee involved has been out on administrative leave.”
In a statement, the New York Police Department said officers were called to the area just after 8 a.m. Monday. 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.”
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“I think I was just scared,” Amy Cooper told CNN. “When you’re alone in the Ramble, you don’t know what’s happening. It’s not excusable, it’s not defensible.”
Christian Cooper told NBC New York he filmed the incident 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.”
Christian Cooper said the incident began calmly. The Ramble is a great area to bird watch, he said, but dogs off leash can disrupt the birds and plants.
“If the habitat is destroyed we won’t be able to go there to see the birds, to enjoy the plantings,” Christian Cooper told NBC New York.
Christian Cooper wrote on his Facebook that he asked for the dog’s leash to be put on, but Amy Cooper wouldn’t. He said he then told her, “if you’re going to do what you want, I’m going to do what I want, but you’re not going to like it.”
Amy Cooper told CNN that she “didn’t know what that meant. When you’re alone in a wooded area, that’s absolutely terrifying right?”
Christian Cooper said he then pulled out dog treats that he carries around. He told CNN that he carries them because he knows dog owners often don’t want a stranger to feed their dogs so they immediately restrain it.
Amy Cooper said Christian Cooper was throwing the treats at her dog, which Christian Cooper denies.
That’s when Christian Cooper started recording.
“Can you please stop? Sir, I’m asking you to stop,” Amy Cooper says in the video as she grabs her dog by its collar and walks toward Christian Cooper.
“Please don’t come close to me,” Christian Cooper repeats as Amy Cooper continues to ask him to stop recording. During the encounter, Amy Cooper’s dog struggles as she lifts its front legs off the ground by the animal’s collar.
Amy Cooper says she’ll take a picture and call the police. “Please call the cops,” Christian Cooper replies, as he stands in one place and records.
“I’m going to tell them there’s an African American man threatening my life,” Amy Cooper says. As she dials and walks back, the dog continues to gasp for air.
A dog rescue agency for Cocker Spaniels later wrote in a Facebook post that the dog was surrendered to them voluntarily “while this matter is being addressed.”
As the video continues, Amy Cooper tells a 911 operator, “I’m sorry. I’m in the Ramble and there’s a man, African American, he has a bicycle helmet. He is recording me and threatening me and my dog.”
Amy Cooper continues to speak to the operator, she frantically pleas for police to come immediately. She then puts the leash on her dog. As soon as the dog’s leash is on, Christian Cooper says, “thank you,” and the video ends.
Follow USA TODAY’s Ryan Miller on Twitter @RyanW_Miller
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