A video showing a white woman calling New York City police alleging that a black man was threatening her in Central Park after he asked her to put her dog on a leash has gone viral.
Christian Cooper told NBC’s local affiliate WNBC that he was bird watching in the park on Monday when he noticed a dog running free. He approached the woman walking the dog to ask that she put it back on a leash as regulated. The woman refused and Cooper began filming their interaction, which his sister later posted on Twitter.
In the video, the woman who has identified herself as Amy Cooper — no relation to Christian — asks him to stop filming while pulling out her phone and saying: “I’m going to tell them there’s an African American man threatening my life.”
NBC News could not immediately reach Christian Cooper for comment. Amy Cooper declined to speak late on Monday night but said text message that she would respond Tuesday.
Christian Cooper told WNBC he just wanted her to follow the rules for that area of the park to protect the environment.
“If the habitat is destroyed, we won’t be able to go there to see the birds, to enjoy the plantings,” he told WNBC.
“At some point, she decided I’m gonna play the race card, I guess,” Christian Cooper said.
Amy Cooper appeared frantic in the video, grabbed the dog by its collar while on the phone reporting that “an African American man” was threatening her and the pet.
She eventually put the dog on its leash, and Christian Cooper is heard saying, “Thank you” before ending the recording.
He said he felt the need to record the incident because he didn’t want to feel intimidated.
“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 told WNBC.
The video, which had been viewed more than 16 million times by early Tuesday, has sparked outrage. Amy Cooper’s employer, investment management company Franklin Templeton, issued a statement saying she was being placed on administrative leave while an investigation was conducted.
Amy Cooper also came forward, telling NBC News’ affiliate WNBC that she was sorry for her behavior.
“I sincerely and humbly apologize to everyone, especially to that man, his family,” she said in a phone interview. “It was unacceptable and I humbly and fully apologize to everyone who’s seen that video, everyone that’s been offended … everyone who thinks of me in a lower light and I understand why they do.”