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Fired After Calling 911 On A Black Bird-Watcher, Amy Cooper Sues For Discrimination

Video of Amy Cooper calling the police on a man went viral on social media last year. The man says he asked Cooper to put her dog on a leash in New York's Central Park.
Christian Cooper via Facebook
Screenshot by NPR
Video of Amy Cooper calling the police on a man went viral on social media last year. The man says he asked Cooper to put her dog on a leash in New York's Central Park.

Amy Cooper, a white New York woman who called police on a Black bird-watcher in Central Park last Memorial Day, is suing the company that swiftly fired her over the controversial incident.

"We do not tolerate racism of any kind at Franklin Templeton," the investment firm said the day after the incident. It said it had completed an internal review and decided to terminate her, effective immediately.

Amy Cooper filed a federal lawsuit this week against Franklin Templeton, saying the company never investigated the incident that led to her firing — the confrontation between her and Christian Cooper. Her lawsuit claims that her employer discriminated against her because of her race and gender.

Much of the encounter was captured on video by Christian Cooper, who is not related to Amy Cooper, after he said he asked herto put a leash on her dog to comply with the rules in that area of the park.

The video, which went viral, shows Amy Cooper calling the police. "I'm in The Ramble, and there's a man, African American, he's got a bicycle helmet. He's recording me and threatening me and my dog," she told the emergency dispatcher.

The bird-watcher does not appear to come closer to her and remains calm as Amy Cooper grows agitated and starts to scream. "I'm sorry. I can't hear. Are you there? I'm being threatened by a man in The Ramble. Please send the cops immediately!" He was not threatening her in the video.

Christian Cooper told NPR afterward that what the woman did was "pretty crappy without a doubt." He added: "I'm not sure that her one minute of poor decision-making, bad judgment and, without question, racist response necessarily has to define her completely."

Amy Cooper's lawsuit states that she did not call the police because she was racist, but "because she was alone in the park and frightened to death after being selected as the next target of Christian Cooper, an overzealous birdwatcher engaged in Central Park's ongoing feud between birdwatchers and dog owners."

She is seeking "back pay and bonus, loss of unvested funds and other benefits, front pay or reinstatements, emotional distress damages, attorneys' fees and costs, and interest and punitive damages in an amount to be determined at trial."

Franklin Templeton maintains that the company did the right thing in firing Cooper.

"We believe the circumstances of the situation speak for themselves and that the company responded appropriately," the company told NPR in an emailed statement. "We will defend against these baseless claims."

Amy Cooper also faced a misdemeanor charge of falsely reporting an incident to police. The Manhattan District Attorney's Office dropped the charge after she completed restorative justice sessions.

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Merrit Kennedy is a reporter for NPR's News Desk. She covers a broad range of issues, from the latest developments out of the Middle East to science research news.