The man who recorded police allegedly placing Eric Garner in a chokehold was arrested on a weapons charge in Staten Island over the weekend, police said.
Ramsey Orta, 22, was charged with second-degree criminal possession of a weapon after he allegedly walked out of a Central Avenue hotel with a 17-year-old girl, Alba Lekaj, and gave her a gun just before 10 p.m. on Saturday, police said.
Orta, who lives a few blocks away in the Tompkinsville area, was also charged with criminal possession of a weapon with a previous conviction, 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 the Lekaj’s pants, 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.
Orta has been arrested several times in recent years, including for assault, robbery and weapons possession, police said.
Orta was awaiting arraignment Sunday and could not be reached for comment. It could not be determined if he had retained an attorney.
A man who answered the phone at Lekaj’s Staten Island home Sunday evening and identified himself as her father said she was in the “wrong place” at the “wrong time.”
Sunday, the Rev. Al Sharpton said Orta’s arrest should have “no bearing at all on the case” involving Garner’s death while in police custody.
Last month, Orta videotaped the attempted arrest and alleged chokehold of Staten Island dad Eric Garner, 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.
The video went viral, sparking a heated debate about NYPD tactics and the relationship between police and community.
“The tape that Ramsey recorded has now been validated by the medical examiner’s report,” Sharpton said, speaking at his National Action Network headquarters in Harlem. “He’s not an eyewitness, his tape is.”
Sharpton then called for Staten Island District Attorney Daniel Donovan to hand the Garner investigation over to the federal government, alleging that prosecuting Orta — a witness in Garner’s arrest — is a conflict of interest.
The Staten Island DA’s office declined comment.
Sunday, Patrick Lynch, president of the police’s union the Patrolman’s Benevolent Association, said Orta’s arrest “underscores the dangers” police face in the area.
“It is criminals like Mr. Orta who carry illegal firearms who stand to benefit the most by demonizing the good work of police officers,” Lynch said in a statement. “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.”
Following Garner’s death, Daniel Pantaleo — the officer who allegedly wrestled him to the ground — was placed on modified duty and had his badge and gun confiscated.
A homicide is a death caused by the actions of another, not a criminal charge.
Staten Island prosecutors who are investigating Garner’s death said Friday they were awaiting an autopsy report and the official death certificate.