Activists used the #FreeRamsey hashtag on Twitter on Monday to demand the release of Ramsey Orta, the man who filmed the deadly 2014 encounter between a New York City police officer and Eric Garner.
Orta has been locked up for years on various drug and gun charges, which he and his supporters believe are retaliation for filming the viral video of Garner's death.
NYPD Officer Daniel Pantaleo was fired on Monday for placing Garner in a chokehold that led to his death. Pantaleo escaped criminal prosecution.
The New York City police officer whose actions killed Eric Garner in 2014 was fired on Monday, a long-awaited result after five long years of investigations, activism, and controversy.
In the viral cellphone video that captured the fatal encounter, Officer Daniel Pantaleo could be seen tackling Garner from behind and wrapping his arm around Garner's neck, wrestling him to the ground.
A medical examiner testified in May that Pantaleo's chokehold "set into motion a lethal sequence" that ended with an asthma attack that killed Garner.
AP Photo/Eduardo Munoz Alvarez, File
Although Pantaleo escaped criminal prosecution — both a Staten Island grand jury and the Department of Justice declined to bring charges — the man who filmed the deadly encounter has been locked up for years.
Ramsey Orta was arrested multiple times after Garner's 2014 death. He was accused in 2014 of stuffing a gun into a 17-year-old girl's pants — a charge he has called "ridiculous" — and accused in 2014 and 2015 of selling drugs to undercover officers, DNAinfo reported.
He pleaded guilty to gun and drug charges in 2016 and was sentenced to four years in jail.
'The cops had been following me every day since Eric died'
Jefferson Siegel/NY Daily News via Getty Images
On Monday, activists used the hashtag #FreeRamsey to demand his release from prison and suggest that his incarceration is payback for filming Garner's death.
A profile on Orta in The Verge documented his struggles in prison and belief that some of the charges against him were retaliatory.
"There's no chance I'm dumb enough to give a girl a gun out in the open like that," Orta told The Verge. "The cops had been following me every day since Eric died, shining lights in my house every night. You think I'm walking around with a stolen gun that now they say wasn't even loaded?"
The video was a key piece of evidence in the Garner case
In a press conference on Monday, New York Police Department Commissioner James O'Neill cited Orta's video as he described his anguish over the decision to fire Pantaleo, saying he watched it multiple times and wished for a different outcome.
O'Neill said Pantaleo behaved appropriately by trying to arrest Garner, and that the initial chokehold was "acceptable" while the two were in danger of crashing through a glass window, he should have quickly readjusted his grip on the first opportunity to do so.
But O'Neill also lay blame with Garner himself for resisting Pantaleo.
"Every time I watched the video, I say to myself, as probably all of you do, to Mr. Garner: 'Don't do it. Comply.' To Officer Pantaleo: 'Don't do it.' I said that about the decisions made by both Officer Pantaleo and Mr. Garner," O'Neill said. "But none of us can take back our decisions, most especially when they lead to the death of another human being."
Orta's earliest possible release date is December 2019, New York state prison records show.
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