22-year-old Ramsey Orta made headline news last month when he videotaped NYPD officer Daniel Pantaleo placing the suspect of an illegal cigarette business in a chokehold. The victim, 350-pound Eric Garner told the officer that he was unable to breathe, and soon after he went silent. Garner died on the scene due to chest and neck compression.
Well, Orta is back in the news this month but for a different reason — narcotics officers say Orta tried to sell a 25-caliber Norton semiautomatic handgun to a teenager in a high-crime area just blocks away from where the fatal confrontation between the police officers and Pantaleo was filmed.
According to police reports, undercover narcotics officers saw Orta place an unknown object in the waistband of 17-year-old Alba Lekaj on Central Avenue. Officers approached and searched Lekaj, at which point they discovered the 25-caliber firearm along with a misdemeanor amount of marijuana. Both Orta and Lekaj were arrested at the scene.
Lekaj was released from jail after posting bond. Her mother said she was going down the street to purchase groceries from the store. The mother also claimed Lekaj had recently met Orta and thought he was a “good guy.”
Orta’s cellphone video sparked controversy by revealing officer Pantaleo using a chokehold, which is prohibited by the NYPD, to place a suspect in submission. Of course, this video become even more relevant when news of the suspect’s passing was released. Rev. Al Sharpton plans to encourage the U.S. Justice Department to seek criminal charges against officer Pantaleo.
During the video, Eric Garner is clearly placed in a chokehold while telling police officers that he’s unable to breath. Officer Pantaleo, however, continues to subdue him using this illegal tactic. Medical examiners declared Garner’s cause of death as chest and neck compression from a chokehold, citing the victim’s weight as a contributing factor.
“I would be pretty surprised if it didn’t go to a grand jury. Any prosecutor has their work cut out for them, trying to show that a police officer sworn to uphold the law has crossed the line,” said former federal prosecutor Alan Vinegrad.
If prosecutors decide to pursue this case, officer Pantaleo could face either manslaughter charges or a less severe charge or reckless endangerment. It’s still unclear, however, if prosecutors will move forward with charges against the officer.