TOMPKINSVILLE — The man who filmed Eric Garner's death was arrested Tuesday morning for selling drugs in the park across from where Garner was arrested, a law enforcement source said.
Ramsey Orta, 22, was arrested in his Van Duzer Street home around 5 a.m. with his mother Emily Mercado, 42, for selling crack, heroin, oxycodone, alprazolam and marijuana in Tompkinsville Park, the source said. His brother, Michael Batista, 25, was arrested on Park Avenue Tuesday.
Their arrests came after police received numerous community complaints about drug dealing in and around the park, across the street from where Orta filmed Garner's arrest in July, the source said. Orta was the ringleader in his mother's and brother's sale of drugs in the park, the source said.
Orta got hit with a 34 count indictment on Tuesday for selling drugs to undercover officers in the park between November 2014 until Feb. 4, 2015, according to the District Attorney's office. He sold a total of 21 ziplock bags of crack, nine glassines of heroin, six ziplock bags of marijuana, eight oxycodone pills and two alprazolam pills in that time to officers, according to court documents.
Mercado got charged with six counts for selling oxycodone and alprazolam pills to undercover officers, and Batista got nine counts for selling four glassines of heroin to officers, according to court documents.
Also busted in the sting were Frank Thompson, 63, Shaun Taylor, 34, Albertis Freeman, 67, Theodore Sanderson, 41, Ramell Johnson, 36, Charles Meizlik, 48, Robert Haney, 46, Shaneqa Coughman, 17, and Lawrence Williams, 38, according to court documents. It was not known if they worked with Orta or not.
Another suspect was still being pursued by police, the source said.
The lawyer for Meizlik and Haney said that he asked the court for medical attention because both of them are addicted to heroin, and hopes they get treatment for it.
"They're certainly not choir boys or anything, but they've been fighting addiction their whole lives," Paul Capofari said. "I hope that some kind treatment is offered for these men."
Garner, 44, died after being arrested for selling untaxed cigarettes by NYPD Officer Daniel Pantaleo. Orta shot the dramatic video that shows Pantaleo wrestle Garner to the ground, who can be heard telling them "I can't breathe" numerous times. The medical examiner later ruled Garner's death a homicide by chokehold.
The footage brought national attention to the case, and Orta was hailed as a hero by Rev. Al Sharpton. A grand jury ruled in December not to indict Pantaleo for Garner's death, which sparked a wave of protests around the city.
A month after his death, residents told the New York Daily News residents told the New York Daily News that the troubled stretch of Bay Street near Tompkinsville Park got much worse, with loiters selling cigarettes and drinking outside.
From September 2014 until as recently as Feb. 7, undercover officers started to buy drugs from the suspects in the area and making arrests Tuesday, according to court documents.
Aside from his recent drug arrest, Orta was arrested for passing a gun to a 17-year-old girl on a Staten Island street, and at the time Mercado said they believed Orta was set up by police for filming Garner's death.
"It's funny how all of a sudden he's arrested," Mercado told DNAinfo New York in August. "The cops have been trying to get him."
She said that police have followed Orta day and night, and even pointed spotlights in their windows around 4 a.m.
Orta recently told the New York Daily News he was innocent and believes the District Attorney's office was trying to punish him by dragging out the gun case.
Orta bail was set at $100,000, Batista's set at $50,000 and Mercado was released without bail at their arraignment. They're all due back in court on March 5, according to the District Attorney.
A lawyer for Orta did not want to comment for this story. Lawyers for the other suspects did not respond to request for comments, but Johnson's lawyer, Matthew Blum, said his client denied to the judge he sold crack to the undercover officers.