The Staten Island man who took video of New York police officers forcibly arresting another man who later died was himself arrested over the weekend, the NYPD says.
Ramsey Orta, 22, was arrested Saturday and is charged with two counts of criminal possession of a weapon. Police allege that plainclothes officers saw Orta attempt to slide a .25-caliber semiautomatic handgun into the waistband of a 17-year-old girl on a street just blocks from where Orta recorded the NYPD's fatal July 17 confrontation with Eric Garner.
Orta had a previous weapon conviction that prohibited him from possessing a firearm. He is due in court this month on robbery charges stemming from a May arrest and an assault charge from an arrest three days before Garner's death, according to court records.
Patrick Lynch, head of the city's Patrolmen's Benevolent Association, was quick to link Orta's arrest to the Garner controversy.
"The arrest of Ramsey Orta for criminal possession of a firearm only underscores the dangers that brought police officers to respond to a chronic crime condition in that community," Lynch said in a statement. "It is criminals like Mr. Orta who carry illegal firearms who stand to benefit the most by demonizing the good work of police officers."
The gruesome cellphone video made national news and shined a spotlight on NYPD arrest procedures. Mayor Bill de Blasio and the police commissioner, William Bratton, have said the officer appeared to use a chokehold, a maneuver banned by the department for two decades.
The video showed Officer Daniel Pantaleo and another officer trying to arrest Garner, a 6-foot-3, 350-pound father of six, for allegedly selling untaxed cigarettes on a Staten Island street. The video showed Pantaleo, an eight-year NYPD veteran, grabbing Garner, 43, around the neck as Pantaleo and his partner wrestled Garner to the ground.
Garner was transported to a medical center, where he was pronounced dead. Last week, the city medical examiner ruled that Garner's death was a homicide. Medical examiner spokeswoman Julie Bolcer said Friday that Garner died from "the compression of his chest and prone positioning during physical restraint by police."
Asthma and heart disease contributed to his death, she said.
The Rev. Al Sharpton said Orta's rest provides further evidence that the Garner case should be handled by federal prosecutors. He said Staten Island officials now have a conflict of interest.
"This has no bearing at all on the case or the movement for justice in regard to Eric Garner," Sharpton said of Orta's arrest. "The tape that Ramsey recorded has now been validated by the medical examiner's report. The key witness will be the medical examiner. The tape speaks for itself."
Pantaleo was stripped of his gun and badge pending the investigation. Another officer was placed on desk duty. Two paramedics and two emergency medical technicians were suspended without pay.
Police said Orta was in a hospital Sunday for treatment of an undisclosed medical condition.
Contributing: Natalie DiBlasio, USA TODAY; Associated Press