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Man Who Filmed Eric Garner Video Wins New York Press Club Award

By Nicholas Rizzi | April 28, 2015 4:32pm
Eric Garner Died During an Arrest on Staten Island
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New York Daily News

TOMPKINSVILLE — The man who filmed Eric Garner's arrest on a Tompkinsville street was honored with a New York Press Club award for the video, the group announced Monday.

Ramsey Orta, 23, was awarded the best "Spot News Video" by the club for the footage he shot on his cellphone that he shared with the New York Daily News showing Garner, 43, being arrested for selling untaxed cigarettes by plain clothes officers.

The footage — which sparked outrage by the Staten Island father being pulled to the ground by NYPD Officer Daniel Pantaleo while saying "I can't breathe," during an arrest on a Tompkinsville street, brought national attention to the case.

A grand jury later ruled not to indict Pantaleo for Garner's death, which sparked a wave of protests around the city.

Orta has been hailed as a hero by Rev. Al Sharpton for shooting the video, but since its release, he and his family have been harassed by police, he said.

“It just gives me more power to not be afraid to pull out my camera anytime,” Orta toldTime last year.

“Even if they’re pushing me back, I might just like keep going forward and if I get arrested, hey, I got something on camera.”

Orta — who's been arrested twice since the video for unrelated charges — declined to comment through his lawyers.

A month after Garner's death, Orta was arrested on a weapons charge for passing a gun to a 14-year-old girl on a Staten Island street, prosecutors said. At the time, his family called the arrest a retaliatory setup by police.

"It's funny how all of a sudden he's arrested," Orta's mother Emily Mercado, 41, told DNAinfo New York at the time. "The cops have been trying to get him."

Mercado said that officers have followed Orta day and night and pointed spotlights inside their Van Duzer Street home at 4 a.m. one morning.

In February, Mercado and Orta were both arrested in their home for selling crack, heroin, oxycodone, alprazolam and marijuana in Tompkinsville Park. He was hit with a 34 count indictment for selling drugs in the park to undercover officers between November 2014 to Feb. 4, 2015, according to the District Attorney's office.

Orta's lawyer, William Aronin, of Perry and Aronin, said he pleaded not guilty in both cases.

"We plan on fighting the charges vigorously," Aronin said.

Orta was locked up at Rikers Island in February, and said in interviews he was scared to eat the food because he feared it had rat poison in it. He lived on commissary food until he was released on bail earlier this month, Aronin said. He was finally released last month after his aunt raised more than $40,000 online for his bail.