The New York City birdwatcher targeted in an allegedly racist confrontation with a woman in Central Park on Memorial Day says he's "not excusing the racism" but thinks attacks on the woman, who has since been fired from her finance job, might go too far. "Any of us can make—not necessarily a racist mistake, but a mistake" and "I don't know if her life needed to be torn apart," says Christian Cooper, a 57-year-old black man, in an interview with the New York Times. He was back birdwatching in the park Wednesday. Two days earlier, he'd requested that a white woman, Amy Cooper, leash her dog as is required in the Ramble, a park area frequented by birdwatchers. He then offered the dog a treat. In a viral video, the woman said she would tell police that an African-American man was threatening her life. She then called 911.
Amy Cooper has apologized, saying she "reacted emotionally and made false assumptions" about Christian's motives. Christian—a Harvard graduate and former Marvel Comics editor, credited with creating one of the first gay characters in Star Trek comics—said the apology was "a start," per the Times. "Now, should she be defined by that, you know, couple-of-seconds moment? … I think that's really up to her and what she does going forward," he tells NPR. Either way, death threats against the woman are "wholly inappropriate and abhorrent and should stop immediately," he says, per KTLA. "To get that kind of tidal wave in such a compressed period of time, it's got to hurt," he tells the Times. Amy Cooper also surrendered her dog to a shelter. And on Wednesday, the NYC Commission on Human Rights opened an investigation into the case. (Read more Central Park stories.)