A white pet owner apologized for calling the police Monday on a black bird-watcher who asked her to leash her dog in New York City's Central Park, a dispute that quickly spiraled into a racial flashpoint.
The dog owner, Amy Cooper, told CNN she wanted to "publicly apologize to everyone," insisting that, "I'm not racist. I did not mean to harm that man in any way."
In a viral video, Ms. Cooper is shown calling the police after telling Christian Cooper — they are not related — that "I'm going to tell them there's an African American man threatening my life."
Mr. Cooper, who recorded their encounter in the Ramble, an area on the west side of Central Park, replied, "Please tell them whatever you like."
Before he began recording, he said in a post that he saw her dog "tearing through the plantings" and told her that "dogs in the Ramble have to be on the leash at all times. The sign is right there."
He said she refused, telling him her dog needed exercise, and that he tried to lure the dog away by offering a treat. She yelled at him not to touch her dog, she said.
"That's when I started video recording with my iPhone, and when her inner Karen fully emerged and took a dark turn," Mr. Cooper said on Facebook.
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. pic.twitter.com/3YnzuATsDm
— Melody Cooper (@melodyMcooper) May 25, 2020
As he recorded her, she called 911 as she struggled to control her unleashed dog, saying, "I'm in the Ramble, and there is a man, African-American, he has a bicycle helmet. He is recording me and threatening me and my dog."
The police arrived after the two left the scene, and no citations were issued, but numerous commenters on social media said that she put him in danger by telling the 911 operator that she was being threatened by "an African-American man."
"I do sincerely hope that the NYPD investigates, arrests her and [makes] a public statement condemning this type of horrific racism," tweeted bestselling author Don Winslow. "If the police had shown up in force with guns drawn something really awful could have happened."
Mr. Cooper concurred.
"Unfortunately we live in an era with things like Ahmaud Arbery, where black men are seen as targets," he told CNN. "This woman thought she could exploit that to her advantage, and I wasn't having it."
Ms. Cooper, whom the New York Post dubbed the "Central Park 'Karen,'" said that she was "just scared," adding that, "When you're alone in the Ramble, you don't know what's happening. It's not excusable, it's not defensible."
She added that her "entire life is being destroyed right now."
Ms. Cooper was placed on administrative leave from her job at the investment firm Franklin Templeton, which said in a statement the company was "investigating the situation" and that "We take these matters very seriously and do not condone racism of any kind."
In response to an incident involving an employee on May 25th, Franklin Templeton issued the following statement. pic.twitter.com/8f2lMwK0r5
— Franklin Templeton (@FTI_US) May 26, 2020
She also surrendered her dog to Abandoned Angels Cocker Spaniel Rescue after concerns were raised about her dragging and lifting her pet by the collar.
Mr. Cooper's sister Melody Cooper, who posted the one-minute video on Twitter, later said that her brother was fine, and that he left to continue his birding after she leashed her dog.
"All she had to do was put that poor dog on the leash," Melody Cooper tweeted.
Her video tweet attracted 27.2 million views in less than 24 hours.