A woman who went viral on social media after a video of her calling police claiming a black man was threatening her life when he asked her to put a leash on her dog has been fired by her employer.
Christian Cooper said he started filming Amy Cooper (no relation) in New York’s Central Park after he said he asked her to obey the park signs and put her dog on a leash, he said Ms Cooper refused.
The two were in The Ramble, an area popular with bird watchers and where dogs are required to be leashed.
“Please don’t come close to me,” Mr Cooper says as Ms Cooper moves toward him, dragging her dog by the collar and asking him to stop filming her.
Ms Cooper pulls out her phone and says she is going to call the police.
"I’m going to tell them there’s an African American man threatening my life,” Ms Cooper says as she dials.
“Please call the cops, please tell them whatever you like” Mr Cooper responds.
"At some point, she decided, 'I'm gonna play the race card', I guess," Mr Cooper said speaking to NBC about the video.
He said he felt the need to record the incident because he didn't want to feel intimidated.
‘There is an African American man threatening me’
Ms Cooper tells emergency services “I’m in Central Park, there is an African American man recording me and threatening myself and my dog”.
Ms Cooper repeats herself and becomes agitated as her dog starts to struggle and yelp.
“I’m sorry I can’t hear you I’m being threatened by a man in The Ramble please send the cops immediately!” she says.
The woman then attaches the lead to her dog’s collar, at which point Mr Cooper thanks her and stops recording.
The video was posted on Twitter on Monday (local time) by Mr Cooper’s sister, Melody Cooper, and has been viewed more than 52 million times.
“Oh, when Karens take a walk with their dogs off leash in the famous Bramble in NY’s Central Park, where it is clearly posted on signs that dogs MUST be leashed at all times, and someone like my brother (an avid birder) politely asks her to put her dog on the leash,” Melody Copper tweeted.
Melody Cooper called the dog owner a Karen, slang used to describe a middle-aged white woman perceived to be entitled.
‘I reacted emotionally’
Outraged Twitter uses quickly identified the woman and tracked down her workplace, an investment management company which reacted by tweeting it had placed Ms Cooper on leave, and later terminated her employment.
“Following our internal review of the incident in Central Park yesterday, we have made the decision to terminate the employee involved, effective immediately. We do not tolerate racism of any kind at Franklin Templeton,” Franklin Templeton tweeted.
In a statement released on Tuesday Ms Cooper apologised calling the incident “mortifying” and said Mr Cooper “every right to request that I leash my dog in an area where it was required”.
“I want to apologise to Chris Cooper for my actions when I encountered him in Central Park yesterday.
“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.
“When Chris began offering treats to my dog and confronted me in an area where there was no one else nearby and said: ‘You're not going to like what I'm going to do next’ I assumed we were being threatened when all he had intended to do was record our encounter on his phone.
“I am well aware of the pain that misassumptions and insensitive statements about race cause and would never have imagined that I would be involved in the type of incident that occurred with Chris.
“I hope that a few mortifying seconds in a lifetime of forty years will not define me in his eyes and that he will accept my sincere apology.”
Ms Cooper also voluntarily surrendered her dog to Abandoned Angels Cocker Spaniel Rescue after several complaints were made.
“The dog is now in our rescue’s care and he is safe and in good health,” she shelter tweeted.
Mr Cooper responded to the apology.
“If it’s genuine and if she plans on keeping her dog on a leash in The Ramble going forward, then we have no issues with each other,” he told CNN.
"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,” Mr Cooper told NBC.
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