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Man Who Filmed Eric Garner Chokehold Busted for Gun Possession, Police Say

By Aidan Gardiner | August 4, 2014 10:09am
Eric Garner Arrest
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New York Daily News

STATEN ISLAND — The man who filmed an NYPD officer using a fatal chokehold on a Staten Island dad was arrested Saturday after slipping a small handgun into the waistband of a 17-year-old girl he had just left a hotel with, police said.

Ramsey Orta, 22, whom the Daily News credited with taking the video, brought national attention to the death of Eric Garner when he took out his phone to record as a plain-clothes NYPD officer wrapped his arm around Garner's neck while the father of six repeatedly said, "I can't breathe."

Officers were trying to arrest Garner because he had been selling untaxed cigarettes, police said. His death was ruled a homicide by the city's medical examiner Friday.

About 9:45 p.m. Saturday evening, plain-clothes narcotics officers spotted Orta strike up a conversation with a 17-year-old girl, Alba Lekaj, near Bay Street and Victory Boulevard and then go into the Hotel Richmond at 71 Central Ave., a center of drug activity, police said.

The two quickly re-emerged, and as the officers went to talk to them Orta slipped an empty .25-caliber Norton handgun into Lekaj's waistband, according to the NYPD.

They were both arrested on the spot on weapons possession charges, police said. Lekaj also had a Ziploc bag full of marijuana in her bra and was charged with marijuana possession, police said.

Lekaj was arraigned and released Sunday, while Orta was still awaiting arraignment Monday, prosecutors said.

He's been arrested 25 times for assault, criminal possession of stolen property and criminal possession of marijuana, an NYPD spokeswoman said.

He was arrested as recently as July 13 for assault, the spokeswoman said.

Orta's arrest came a day after the city's medical examiner ruled Garner's death a homicide. He was killed by compression of his neck and chest, the medical examiner said.

Garner also suffered asthma, obesity and hypertensive cardiovascular disease, all of which contributed to his death, the medical examiner said.

The officer who put Garner in the chokehold, Daniel Pantaleo, was placed on modified duty but has not yet been charged with a crime.

"I met with the prosecutors and I feel like I did the right thing by doing that and I just want them to do the right thing and get justice for my husband," Garner's widow, Esaw Garner, said during a press conference Saturday.

"It's been really hard. I've been trying to be strong but it's really hard."