New York prosecutors have charged a white woman who accused an African American man of threatening her life in New York’s Central Park with filing a false police report, Manhattan’s district attorney says.
The district attorney Cy Vance said Amy Cooper, 41, faces an October 14 arraignment over the incident during May – it was captured on a video that went viral and touched off a national conversation about “white privilege.”
“We are strongly committed to holding perpetrators of this conduct accountable,” Mr Vance said.
Filing a false report is a misdemeanour punishable by up to one year in jail.
Ms Cooper was walking her dog on May 25 in an area of Central Park known as the Ramble when she encountered Christian Cooper, an avid bird-watcher who is unrelated to her.
Christian Cooper said he asked Ms Cooper to put her dog on a leash as it was not a leash-free part of the park. When she refused, he offered the dog treats.
In the video, Ms Cooper is captured saying she would tell the police “there’s an African-American man threatening my life”, which was false, and telling an emergency operator that Mr Cooper was threatening her and her dog, referring to him twice as “African-American”.
“I’m taking a picture and calling the cops … I’m going to tell them there’s an African American man threatening my life,” she said.
The video has more than 44.7 million views on Twitter.
The incident occurred a few hours before the death of George Floyd at the hands of police in Minneapolis. That incident touched off nationwide – and international – protests about racial injustice.
After video of the Central Park incident went viral, Ms Cooper was fired from her job at at asset manager Franklin Templeton, and she publicly apologised.
“I’m not a racist. I did not mean to harm that man in any way,” she told CNN.
On Monday (US time), Ms Cooper’s lawyer Robert Barnes said she would be found not guilty, and faulted a “rush to judgment” by some about the case.
“She lost her job, her home, and her public life. Now some demand her freedom?” Mr Barnes said.
“How many lives are we going to destroy over misunderstood 60-second videos on social media?”