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Man who recorded video of NYPD chokehold arrested on gun charge

Arrest Struggle Death-5.jpg

August 1, 2014: A young boy stops as he passes a makeshift memorial for Eric Garner in the Staten Island borough of New York. Garner was put in a chokehold while being arrested at the site last month for selling untaxed loose cigarettes. On Friday, the medical examiner ruled Garner's death to be a homicide caused by a police chokehold. (AP Photo/Julie Jacobson) (The Associated Press)

The man who recorded a New York City police officer using a chokehold during the arrest of a man who later died in custody was arrested himself late Saturday on a gun charge. 

Ramsey Orta, 22, is charged with two counts of criminal possession of a weapon. Police said 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 July 14, according to court records.

On July 17, Orta recorded the fateful confrontation between NYPD officers and his friend Eric Garner over the latter's alleged sale of loose, untaxed cigarettes. The video shot by Orta appears to show Garner losing consciousness after being placed in the chokehold. 

The officer who placed Garner in the chokehold, Daniel 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.

Orta's latest arrest came a day after the city's medical examiner ruled Garner's death a homicide caused by Officer Pantaleo's chokehold, as well as the compression of his chest and prone positioning "during physical restraint by police."

Patrick Lynch, the president of the city's largest police union, described the encounter between Garner and police as "a tragedy" but said Orta's arrest "only underscores the dangers that brought police officers to respond to a chronic crime condition" in Staten Island's Tompkinsville community.

The Rev. Al Sharpton, who called Orta to the lectern at Garner's funeral and said the city should "thank God" he was there to record video "when the police and EMS failed us," called the arrest irrelevant.

"No one is questioning the validity of the tape, and the medical examiner has validated it," Sharpton said Sunday.

Police said plainclothes officers from a Staten Island narcotics unit saw Orta stuff a silver-colored, .25-caliber handgun into a 17-year-old female companion's waistband after they emerged from a brief stop at the Hotel Richmond. Police called the location, on Central Avenue, a "known drug prone location."

The unloaded semi-automatic weapon recovered was reported stolen in Michigan in 2007, police said. Officers charged the 17-year-old with criminal possession of a weapon and unlawful possession of marijuana.

Police said Orta was in a hospital Sunday for treatment of a medical condition. No details were available. It was not immediately clear if Orta or the 17-year-old had lawyers.

An attorney representing Orta in the robbery case did not return a telephone message.

Sharpton and Garner's widow, Esaw Garner, have called for Staten Island prosecutors to charge the officers involved in his death or turn the case over to federal authorities.

Orta echoed the call for arrest in Garner's death after hearing the medical examiner's ruling Friday.

"I knew that was the cause because I saw it," he said. "Now somebody should get charged."

The Associated Press contributed to this report. 

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