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White woman in viral video says she had no choice but to call police on Black bird-watcher

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The white woman who was recorded on video calling police to claim that a Black bird-watcher was threatening her in New York City's Central Park last year said she felt she was backed into a corner.

In Tuesday's episode of "Honestly," a podcast by former New York Times writer Bari Weiss, the woman, Amy Cooper, said she had no other choice but to call 911 when the bird-watcher, Christian Cooper, offered her dog a treat after he asked her to keep the pooch on a leash.

"He's holding these dog treats in one hand and a bike helmet in his other hand, and I'm thinking, 'Oh, my God, is this guy going to lure my dog over and try to hit him with his bike helmet?'" she told podcaster Kmele Foster. "And if I end up over there, am I going to get hit by this bike helmet?"

Tuesday's interview was a departure from her initial remarks after video of the encounter on May 25, 2020, recorded by Christian Cooper, went viral and drew widespread outrage as an example of police being called on an African American who was not committing any crime. Amy Cooper said then that she overreacted and was sorry.

She told NBC New York at the time: "When I think about the police, I'm such a blessed person. I've come to realize, especially today, that I think of [the police] as a protection agency, and unfortunately, this has caused me to realize that there are so many people in this country that don't have that luxury."

On the podcast, however, she said, "I don't know that as a woman alone in a park that I had another option" but to call police.

Christian Cooper declined to comment about Amy Cooper's latest remarks. He has previously said that he approached to ask her to put her dog on a leash, which is the policy for the Ramble area of Central Park. He said he is often in the Ramble and asks for dogs to be leashed to preserve the area's environment and wildlife. He added that he carries treats with him to get owners to leash their dogs, "because they don't want their dog eating treats" from a stranger.

In video shared on social media by Christian Cooper's sister and viewed by millions, Amy Cooper could be heard saying: "I'm taking a picture and calling the cops. I'm going to tell them there's an African American man threatening my life."

NBC News does not know what happened before the recording begins.

After the incident went viral, Amy Cooper was fired by the investment management company Franklin Templeton and charged with falsely reporting an incident in the third degree. Prosecutors dropped the case in February after she completed five "psychoeducation and therapy" sessions that helped her "appreciate that racial identities shape our lives" and that "we cannot use them to harm ourselves or others," Assistant District Attorney Joan Illuzzi said.

Illuzzi added: "Mr. Cooper did not wish to participate in the criminal justice process, but we determined that the defendant's offense wasn't solely against one individual but was a threat to the community if allowed to go unchecked.

"The simple principle is that one cannot use the police to threaten another and, in this case, in a racially offensive and charged manner," she said. "Given the issues at hand and Ms. Cooper's lack of criminal background, we offered her, consistent with our position on many misdemeanor cases involving a first arrest, an alternative, restorative justice resolution, designed not just to punish but to educate and promote community healing."

In May, Amy Cooper sued her former employer, alleging that the company did not properly consider her fear for personal safety before it fired her. She also alleged in the federal complaint that Franklin Templeton terminated her based on her race and gender while failing to properly investigate the incident, which made national headlines.

Franklin Templeton has previously characterized the lawsuit's claims as "baseless."

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