Ramsey Orta, man who taped police putting Eric Garner in chokehold, arrested on weapons charge
The man who recorded police officers putting Eric Garner in a chokehold was arrested over the weekend, police said Sunday as the Rev. Al Sharpton called for federal officials to take over the investigation into Garner's death.
Ramsey Orta, 22, was charged with criminal possession of a weapon after he walked out of a Central Avenue hotel with a 17-year-old girl, Alba Lekaj, police said.
Lekaj was charged with second-degree criminal possession of a weapon and possession of marijuana, police said.
Orta allegedly tucked the unloaded, .25 caliber firearm into the waistband of Lekaj's pants just before 10 p.m. Saturday, police said. Narcotics officers had watched the pair enter the Richmond Hotel, which is allegedly well-known for drug activity, moments before.
The gun was reported stolen from Michigan in 2007, police said.
Sunday, Sharpton said Orta's arrest should have "no bearing at all on the case" involving Garner's death while in police custody.
Sharpton called for Staten Island District Attorney Daniel Donovan to hand the Garner investigation over to the federal government.
He said Donovan's office prosecuting Orta -- a witness in Garner's arrest -- is a conflict of interest.
The Staten Island district attorney's office declined to comment Sunday.
Last month, Orta videotaped the attempted arrest and chokehold of Garner, of Staten Island, who died shortly after.
On Friday, the medical examiner ruled Garner's death was a homicide caused by the chokehold and chest compression as well the position he was placed in while in police custody.
A finding of homicide by the medical examiner means a death was caused by the actions of another. It isn't in itself a charge of criminal culpability.
The video has sparked a heated debate about NYPD tactics and the relationship between police and communities.
"The tape that Ramsey recorded has now been validated by the medical examiner's report," Sharpton said at his National Action Network headquarters in Harlem. "He's not an eyewitness, his tape is."
Sunday, Patrick Lynch, president of the Patrolmen's Benevolent Association, said Orta's arrest "only underscores the dangers that brought police officers to respond to a chronic crime condition in that community. It is criminals like Mr. Orta who carry illegal firearms, who stand to benefit the most by demonizing the good work of police officers."
"Sadly, in the effort to keep neighborhoods like Tompkinsville safe, a tragedy occurred. But that doesn't change the fact that police officers routinely risk their lives for the benefit of the community and that they have earned their support and understanding," Lynch said.
Orta has been arrested several times in recent years, including for assault, robbery and weapons possession, police said.
Orta was awaiting arraignment Sunday.
It could not be determined if he had retained an attorney.