MANHATTAN — A video going viral on social media appears to show a heated conversation that turns into an apparent racist, verbal attack on a man in Central Park.
The video shows a woman with her dog several feet away from the camera, allegedly calling the cops because an "African American man" was "threatening [her] life."
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
In the video, the woman is seen with her off-leash dog in the Ramble at Central Park. Dogs must be leashed in that area of the park.
As she walked toward the man, identified on his Facebook page as Christian Cooper, she asks him to stop recording.
He asks her not to approach him.
That's when she says she is calling police, and says "I'm going to tell them there's an African American man threatening my life."
She repeats the phrase a few times, seeming more distressed each time.
"He is recording me and threatening me and my dog," the woman is heard saying. "I'm being threatened by a man in the Ramble! Please send the cops immediately."
Cooper is not heard making any threats on video.
Then, the video ends with Cooper saying "thank you," having caught her racially-charged reaction on video.
Police responded to the park after the 8:10 a.m. call, officials said.
"Upon arrival, police determined two individuals had engaged in a verbal dispute," an NYPD spokesperson said. "There were no arrests or summonses issued and both parties went on their way."
City Councilman Mark Levine called what happened "disgusting."
"Filling a false police report is a crime," he tweeted. "Being racist is reprehensible. There needs to be accountability for this."
What happened in the moments before the video was taken is unclear, though the man said in the description of the video that he told the woman dogs must be leashed in that area of the park.
The woman allegedly refused, so the man pulled out treats to lure the dog, or convince the owner to leash him.
That's when the video begins, according to Cooper's description.
The video was posted Monday and was said to be taken Monday morning.
Users on social media were critical of the woman's actions.
"I hope the man recording is ok and if the cops came and saw the video, she needs to be arrested for making false and racist claims," said one Facebook user.
"I am so deeply disturbed by this video and how callously she was willing to put your brother's life at risk," said a Twitter user. "How quickly the racism came out. Tons of non-black birders have asked ppl to leash dogs without being threatened with cops. Tell him the NYC birding community is with him!"
Others noted that while she refuses to leash the dog, she holds onto his collar and lifts him up by it.
The Ramble is known as an area great for bird watching. Cooper is said to be an avid birder.
Cooper posted the video to Facebook, and his sister posted the video to Twitter.
"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," she said in the post, referencing the 'Karen' internet meme, "and someone like my brother (an avid birder) politely asks her to put her dog on the leash."
Later Monday, Abandoned Angels Cocker Spaniel Rescue said on Twitter said the owner voluntarily surrendered custody of the dog "while this matter is being addressed." The dog was adopted through the rescue a few years ago.
Thank you to the concerned public for reaching out to us about a video involving a dog that was adopted from our rescue a few years ago. As of this evening, the owner has voluntarily surrendered the dog in question to our rescue while this matter is being addressed. 1/2— Abandoned Angels (@NYCockerRescue) May 26, 2020
The woman's employer, Franklin Templeton, also released a statement, saying on Twitter she'd been placed on administrative leave.
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
"We take these matters very seriously, and we do not condone racism of any kind," they said.
NYPD First Deputy Commissioner Benjamin Tucker called the situation an “unfortunate incident” and that the fact the woman invoked race was “disturbing.”
During an interview with PIX11 Morning News, Tucker said the woman was at the wrong for having her dog off-leash despite rules that dogs must be leashed in that area, but it is unlikely that an arrest would have been made during the incident.