Ramsey Orta — who shot video of Eric Garner’s 2014 arrest that lead to death by police chokehold — was released from prison on May 28th. Orta’s fiancée, Deja Richardson, confirmed the news to Rolling Stone via email; a Department of Corrections and Community Supervision spokesperson also confirmed his release. His prison sentence is officially over on July 11th; after that, Orta will remain under court supervision until January 2022.
The DOCCS spokesperson also said that they are currently reviewing the incarcerated population for candidates for early release in light of the COVID-19 pandemic. Currently, 898 individuals have been moved back into the community.
Orta was sentenced to four years in prison in 2016 for possession of a weapon as well as drug charges, according to the New York Daily News. In July of 2014, Orta, then 22, recorded cops as they approached Garner near the Staten Island Ferry Terminal and accused him of selling loose cigarettes. One officer, Daniel Pantaleo, put his arm around Garner’s neck and pulled him to the ground. Garner repeatedly told officers that he couldn’t breathe and died soon after the altercation. The video that Orta shot set off a wave of protests and inquiries into police practices. “I Can’t Breathe” became a phrase history has not forgotten. Pantaleo was fired in August of 2019 without pension, according to CNN, after being found guilty at a disciplinary trial for using a chokehold on Garner.
According to Time, Orta was arrested several times since 2014 for criminal possession of a weapon and various drug-related incidents. A year after filming Garner’s death, Orta told the publication he regretted being involved; the public attention was sometimes too much. “It just put me in a messed-up predicament,” he said.
Orta has claimed in the past that he has been a target for correctional officers due to filming Garner’s death; he reportedly filed a lawsuit in 2015 claiming that rat poison was put in his food during his time at Rikers Island.
There’s currently a GoFundMe campaign raising money for Orta following release that has surpassed its $200,000 goal. Orta’s name has recently resurfaced in the press as protests rage across the country due to the police killing of George Floyd, whose death was filmed and spurred outrage around the world.