The Staten Island man who filmed Daniel Pantaleo’s fatal chokehold on Eric Garner in July said Thursday that the Richmond County grand jury that opted not to indict the NYPD officer was rigged. Ramsey Orta said the grand jury’s investigation into Garner’s death was marked by apathy and inefficiency.
“I think they already had their minds made up,” Orta told the New York Daily News. “I feel like it wasn’t fair at all. It wasn’t fair from the start.”
Orta was called on Sept. 1 to give testimony before the grand jury regarding what he witnessed on the day of Garner’s death. The 22-year-old said his appearance was delayed for more than two hours while the court waited for members of the jury to arrive. The appearance lasted just 10 minutes, with questions focused on Garner rather than Pantaleo.
“When I went to the grand jury to speak on my behalf, nobody in the grand jury was even paying attention to what I had to say,” Orta said. “People were on their phones, people were talking. I feel like they didn’t give [Garner] a fair grand jury.”
Garner died July 17 after a confrontation with NYPD officers who suspected he was selling cigarettes illegally. Pantaleo, 29, an eight-year veteran of the force who was sued twice before for alleged misconduct, locked Garner in a chokehold. The 43-year-old man, who suffered from asthma, repeatedly said “I can’t breathe” before losing consciousness. He suffered a heart attack in an ambulance while en route to a local hospital. A New York City medical examiner determined Garner’s death was a homicide by “compression of the neck.”
The grand jury considered various charges against Pantaleo, including criminally negligent homicide, but decided Wednesday that he would not be indicted. Protests against the decision led to more than 80 arrests in Staten Island and Manhattan, Newsday reports.
"This fight ain't over, it has just begun. I'm determined to get justice for my husband,” said Garner’s widow, Esaw Garner. “He should be here celebrating Thanksgiving and Christmas. Somebody who got paid to do right, did wrong. As long as I have a breath in my body, I will fight to the end.”
Orta himself was arrested and indicted on gun-related charges in August, according to reports. He pleaded not guilty to the charges.