Alana Lambert and her friend Shekeria Thomas say they were eager to enjoy some sunny spring weather on Tuesday when they headed to New York City’s Central Park for a bike ride.
But just as they were planning to head home after an hour-long ride, Lambert told The Daily Beast, her portable phone charger fell out of Thomas’ bag. Immediately, a woman picked it up and insisted the pair of Black women had to prove the charger was theirs, Lambert said.
Thomas, 23, told The Daily Beast the woman “rushed to grab” the charger, and she was forced to ride after her. At first, she said, she “thought it was a joke.”
“Things escalated quickly,” Lambert, a 22-year-old model, said on Friday. “For about a minute or so I was trying to talk to her reasonably. But when she called the police, saying that we were threatening and beating her, I was just in disbelief.”
In a series of now-viral TikToks Lambert posted on Wednesday, the woman Lambert describes as the “new Central Park Karen” can be seen smirking as she apparently calls the police to accuse the pair of “touching” and “beating” her for refusing to return the phone charger.
Detective Sophia Mason, an NYPD spokeswoman, told The Daily Beast on Friday there was no record of any 911 call made during the incident and there was no police report filed by any of the parties involved. Metadata reviewed by The Daily Beast shows that Lambert started to film the video on Tuesday at 6:41 p.m.
During the contentious exchange, the woman repeatedly asks the pair to “prove” the charger is theirs, despite their insistence that it fell out of Thomas’ bag during their ride. Thomas said that the woman was “kind of aggressive and sinister” from the start of their 10-minute exchange.
“There was no way I could prove the charger was mine but she kept asking why my name wasn’t on it or if I had a picture with it,” Lambert said. “I actually had a video of me from earlier in the bike ride that showed the charger but I knew at that point anything I said didn’t matter.”
At one point, Lambert can be heard in the video asking the woman if she is racist. The woman replies: “Yes I am. I pick my race over any race, what’s your problem.”
The maskless woman can be heard on the phone, telling what appears to be a 911 dispatcher that she is in Central Park and that “they’re going to beat me.”
“They’re getting close to me and they’re already touching me,” the woman is heard saying as she tries to wheel her bike away from the two women. Thomas is heard insisting that the woman is lying, saying, “You know that’s illegal now, right?”
Last June, New York City Gov. Andrew Cuomo signed a law making it illegal to place false or racially fueled 911 calls weeks after Amy Cooper called police to accuse Black bird watcher Christian Cooper of threatening her life after he asked her to leash her dog in Central Park. Cooper, 41, was charged with filing a false report. The incident, filmed on the same day George Floyd died, triggered lawmakers to pass a series of criminal justice and police reform laws, and spurred a national discussion about white privilege.
In a separate series of videos that Lambert said she filmed at the East Village precinct on Thursday, Lambert is heard attempting to file a police report. An officer tells them that the woman didn’t seem “mentally sane” and “doesn’t seem like a good person” but he didn’t think a crime had occurred.
When Lambert asked him about the “Karens act”—possibly a reference to San Francisco’s new CAREN Act—the officer said he wasn’t aware of it.
“It isn’t legal to make a false police report but from what that seems, it seems like she didn’t make a report, that the cops immediately knew that she was just, y’know, not all there,” the officer said.
In another video, the officer is heard saying that the woman is “obviously not a good person” but “it’s not illegal to be a bad person,” and that cops determined the woman was “in the wrong there but it’s not criminality.”
Lambert told The Daily Beast she was shocked by the officer’s reaction.
“I have never heard of anyone being denied a police report,” Lambert added. “Honestly, I am kind of clueless about where to go from here. That was the police station. Those are the people I was supposed to go to. It was so disheartening and shocking.”
Lambert’s TikToks of the incident, which she later posted on her YouTube and Instagram, have each been viewed at least 300,000 times. The initial video has 2.2 million views.
Lambert said when the woman called the cops she was “relieved” because she was hoping officers would help her recover her charger. But, she said, she knew that she had to remain “patient and calm because the cops would see me as the aggressor.”
“It was hard though because I was mad. And then when she said she was a racist, I was genuinely confused,” she said. “She just didn’t care.”
At various times during the exchange, the woman threatened to break the charger, questioned the pair about who paid for it, and threatened to throw it away, claiming Lambert didn’t pay for it.
Eventually, the woman is seen approaching a group of New York City police officers on horses, and telling them the two Black women had been “threatening” her. Lambert said that after she explained the situation to the officers, she was questioned briefly before getting her charger back.
She said that while the incident was upsetting, being told she didn’t have grounds to file a police report was “heartbreaking.”
At the end of one of the videos filmed in the police station, the officer is heard saying that he asked his sergeant if they could file a police report but they decided Lambert and Thomas didn’t have grounds to.
When asked what they should do if this happens again, the officer said, “Always videotape. Video evidence is always the best evidence.”
“I am still absorbing what happened,” Lambert said Friday. “I still want to press forward on the issue but it’s not something I’m trying to let consume my life. It’s just disheartening to know this can still so easily happen.”
—Justin Rohrlich contributed reporting