By now you've seen the viral video of New York corporate executive Amy Cooper calling 911 from Central Park alleging that an African-American man, identified as Christian Cooper (no relation to Amy Cooper) was threatening her life.
According to the video, which was created after Christian Cooper realized that he was dealing with a potentially disastrous situation, Amy Cooper told Christian Cooper that she was going to call the NYPD to advise that, "an African-American man" was threatening her life. She picked up her phone and did just that. According to the footage, the woman was never in any danger. In fact, Christian Cooper stood there calmly and filmed the incident. It is not a crime to film somebody in public.
The incident began when Amy Cooper was purportedly walking her dog off its leash in an area of Central Park - known as The Ramble - where dogs must be on leashes. The Ramble is a noted bird-watching location and Christian Cooper, an avid bird-watcher, had apparently asked Amy Cooper to put her dog on a leash.
Amy Cooper made it a point - distinctly - to note that she would tell the police "an African-American man" was threatening her, implying that the sheer force of a white woman making an allegation of violence against a black man could have devastating consequences.
Had Christian Cooper not had his phone on him, or perhaps had the battery died, he would likely be in jail right now. The 911 call was hysterical and emotionally-charged, and without a video to give it some context, the police likely would've believed it. On the strength of a 911 call, police arrest, prosecutors file, and juries convict. A 911 recording is a powerful piece of evidence.
Fortunately, Christian Cooper was not arrested as the video serves to exonerate him of any wrongdoing.
Amy Cooper will undoubtedly face the wrath of the Internet, which will likely result in the loss of her job and reputation. She should also be charged criminally for falsely reporting a crime.
Eric Matheny is a criminal defense attorney serving Miami-Dade County.