A woman who called police to say she was being “threatened” by “an African American man” after a birdwatcher in New York‘s Central Park asked her to observe rules about keeping her dog on the leash has been fired by her employer.
It said: “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.”
After the video went viral on social media, Ms Cooper was identified by the public as well as her place of employment. Initially, Franklin Templeton said the woman’s employment was under review before ultimately deciding to fire her.
The viral video encouraged Ms Cooper to "publicly apologise to everyone," but she has since lost her job amid the backlash.
"I'm not a racist. I did not mean to harm that man in any way," she told CNN, later stating she was just "scared" since she was alone in the wooded area. "It's not excusable, it's not defensible," Ms Cooper added.
Backlash sparked from a video that was filmed by Christian Cooper, an African American man who describes himself as an avid birdwatcher and has no relation to Ms Cooper, was published online. The Independent contacted Mr Cooper for a comment.
Mr Cooper approached the woman and her dog after seeing the animal running around without a leash on. The park has multiple signs surrounding it stating that all dogs must remain on a leash.
Prior to the start of the video, Mr Cooper reportedly asked the woman to put her dog on a leash to follow park rules. Then, after the woman denied the request, according to Mr Cooper’s Facebook post, he said: ”Look, if you’re going to do what you want, I’m going to do what I want, but you’re not going to like it.”
“I didn’t know what that meant. When you’re alone in a wooded area, that’s absolutely terrifying, right?” Ms Cooper told CNN about the altercation.
The birdwatcher then pulled out dog treats, which he keeps on him because it tends to encourage pet owners to leash up their dogs to avoid a stranger feeding them. Ms Cooper claimed the man threw a treat at the dog, but he said that never happened.
This was when Mr Cooper pulled out his phone and started filming the altercation.
The video started with Ms Cooper holding her dog by the collar as she asked the man to stop filming her. After approaching Mr Cooper, he asked her to not come towards him. She then said in the video she would be calling the police.
“I’m going to tell them there’s an African American man threatening my life,” Ms Cooper said.
“Please tell them whatever you like,” Mr Cooper responded.
Ms Cooper then called police and appeared hysterical as she said: “There’s a man, African American, he has a bicycle helmet. He is recording me and threatening me and my dog.”
She later asked for police to be sent “immediately”.
The video ended with Mr Cooper saying “thank you” after she put a leash on her dog.
The New York Police Department said officers arrived to the Ramble, the wooded area in Central Park, following the phone call but both of the people were no longer there. No arrests or summons were made.
Ms Cooper’s dog was surrendered to Abandoned Angels Cocker Spaniel Rescue Inc, the shelter she adopted the animal from years ago, following the altercation as the shelter investigates her treatment of the pet, the group said in a statement.
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