Amy Cooper, a white dog owner who was at the center of a controversial encounter with a Black man bird-watching in New York’s Central Park last year, had her misdemeanor charge stemming from that incident dropped on Tuesday.
The woman had been facing a charge of falsely reporting an incident to police after she told them Christian Cooper, who is not related to her, threatened her and her dog. He did not.
“Given the issues at hand and Ms. Cooper’s lack of criminal background, we offered her, consistent with our position on many misdemeanor cases involving a first arrest, an alternative, restorative justice resolution,” Assistant District Attorney Joan Illuzzi told a Manhattan judge, according to a statement provided to NPR.
The program, Illuzzi explained, is “designed not just to punish but to educate and promote community healing.”
Illuzzi said Cooper completed a total of five sessions and that her therapist described it as a “moving experience,” adding that Amy Cooper “learned a lot in their sessions together.”
Because Cooper completed the restorative justice sessions to the prosecutor’s satisfaction, the Manhattan District Attorney’s office moved to dismiss the charge.
The judge then granted a motion to dismiss, according to the District Attorney’s Office statement.
It also noted that Christian Cooper declined to participate in the criminal justice process, but added the District Attorney’s Office went forward with the proceedings because it determined the offense was not just against Cooper, but also “a threat to the community if allowed to go unchecked.”
“The simple principle is that one cannot use the police to threaten another and in this case, in a racially offensive and charged manner,” the statement read.
The May 25 encounter
The encounter between Amy Cooper and Christian Cooper took place in a wooded section of Central Park called The Ramble on Memorial Day. It’s an area of the park where dogs are required to be leashed, and disputes between dog owners and bird-watchers are common.
Christian Cooper said he asked the woman to put her dog back on its leash. He then recorded part of their interaction, which was later posted to social media where it went viral.
It has gone on to become one of the most widely publicized so-called “Karen” incidents, where a white person, typically a woman, calls police to report a Black or brown person engaged in mundane activities.
In the video Christian Cooper captures, Amy Cooper is seen approaching him as she holds her dog’s collar with one hand and a leash and cellphone in another.
The leash is not on the dog collar at the time.
“Please don’t come close to me,” Christian Cooper tells the woman.
She orders him to stop recording video. When he does not, she threatens that she’ll call the police on him.
“Please call the cops,” Christian Cooper responds.
“I’m in The Ramble, and there’s a man, African American, he’s got a bicycle helmet. He’s recording me and threatening me and my dog,” she tells the emergency dispatcher.
Christian Cooper never appears to come closer to her. After repeating herself, Amy Cooper begins screaming into the phone with more panic in her voice.
“I’m sorry. I can’t hear. Are you there? I’m being threatened by a man in The Ramble. Please send the cops immediately!” she screams.
After the woman is seen putting her dog on its leash, the video ends.
Fallout from the viral video
In the immediate aftermath of the incident, Amy Cooper told CNN in a statement, “I’m not a racist. I did not mean to harm that man in any way,” adding that she did not mean to cause harm to the African American community.
Not long after the video surfaced she was fired from her job at the investment firm Franklin Templeton.
For his part, Christian Cooper told NPR at the time he wasn’t sure the fallout she was receiving was warranted.
“I’m not sure that her one minute of poor decision-making, bad judgments and, without question, racist response necessarily has to define her completely, you know?”
He declined to press charges.