Ramsey Orta Pleads Not Guilty In NYPD Case As Controversy Grows Over Eric Garner Chokehold Death

 @TreyeGreen t.green@ibtimes.com on August 05 2014 12:03 PM
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Rev. Al Sharpton introduces Ramsey Orta (R), during the funeral service of Eric Garner at Bethel Baptist Church in Brooklyn, New York July 23. Orta says NYPD officers have been harassing him since he released video he recorded showing Eric Garner being placed in a deadly chokehold while being arrested by an NYPD officer on July 17. Reuters

The Staten Island man who recorded an NYPD officer placing Eric Garner in a chokehold during his fatal arrest last month pleaded not guilty to unrelated weapons charges Monday. He was arrested Saturday after he allegedly passed a stolen firearm to a teenager, police said.

Ramsey Orta, 22, was charged with two counts of criminal possession of a weapon, the New York Daily News reported. Alba Lekaj, 17, was charged with possession of a gun and possession of marijuana. Plainclothes narcotics officers walked up to Orta late Saturday after allegedly seeing him place a stolen .25-caliber handgun into the waistband of Lekaj’s pants, police say. The area where the arrest occurred is known for drug activity and is just a few blocks from where Garner died. 

Orta said officers have been harassing him since he was identified as the person who captured video of the NYPD arrest that led to the death of Garner, 43. "They lying on me. They doing me wrong. I've been harassed by the police since this whole video emerged," he told the Daily News.

Lekaj was released and is now back at her family’s home in Tompkinsville. "My side of what happened was I had no clue of what was going on. No clue. No clue," she told the Daily News. 

Orta was admitted to Richmond University Medical Center Sunday following his arrest due to asthma, officials said. His bail was set at $75,000 Monday.

In the footage recorded by Orta, NYPD Officer Daniel Pantaleo can be seen putting Garner in a chokehold as the Staten Island man was being arrested July 17 on suspicion of selling untaxed cigarettes. Garner asked the officer to stop because he couldn’t breathe. He was later pronounced dead at Richmond University Medical Center.

The New York City Medical Examiner's Office ruled Garner’s death a homicide Friday. Garner’s acute and chronic bronchial asthma, obesity and hypertension were also mentioned as contributing factors, the autopsy report said.

Pantaleo and Officer Justin Damico were placed on desk duty for their roles in the arrest. Pantaleo was also stripped of his gun and badge.

U.S. Attorney General Eric Holder met with Garner’s widow, Esaw Garner, and two federal prosecutors from the U.S. attorney’s office July 25. She requested federal prosecutors open a civil rights investigation into the death of her husband. Holder described Garner’s death as a “tragic event,” but he didn’t say if the Justice Department would conduct its own investigation.

New York Mayor Bill DeBlasio said he was taking Garner’s death “very seriously” and “harnessing all resources available to the city to ensure a full and thorough investigation of the circumstances of this tragic incident."

Garner’s death has sparked outrage over the tactics the NYPD uses to detain suspects and several protests have been held in response to Garner’s death.

The Rev. Al Sharpton has also called for a civil rights investigation into the case and criticized the charges brought against Orta. Sharpton said the Staten Island District Attorney’s office was creating a conflict of interest by prosecuting Orta while also recognizing him as a witness in the Garner incident.

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