NEW YORK (CBSNewYork) — Ramsey Orta, the man who took the video of Eric Garner in a confrontation with police officers on Staten Island last summer, was released on bail Friday months after being accused of unrelated charges.
Orta’s family had claimed that police were trying to set up Orta. His aunt, Lisa Mercardo, started a GoFundMe page that raised $16,250 needed for Orta to make bail, according to published reports.READ MORE: Investigation Underway Following Police-Involved Shooting In Wakefield Section Of Bronx
The Staten Island District Attorney’s office initially questioned the source of Orta’s bail funds and kept him at Rikers Island, but a bail source hearing set for Friday was called off and he was ordered released, according to a Staten Island Advance report.
Orta, 23, had been held at Rikers Island since Feb. 10. He had been charged along with his mother and brother with peddling heroin, marijuana, crack cocaine, and pills to an undercover officer, the publication reported.
Orta was also arrested back in August of last year on gun charges. Police said at the time that 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 as they were leaving the Hotel Richmond single-room occupancy facility.
The unloaded semi-automatic weapon recovered was reported stolen in Michigan in 2007, police said. Officers charged the 17-year-old – identified as Alba Lekaj – with criminal possession of a weapon and unlawful possession of marijuana.
In August, Orta’s mother, Emily Mercado, said police have been following her son ever since he recorded Garner’s arrest.
“They’ve been following him,” she said. “They’ve been sitting in front of my house. They put spot lights in my window.”
Ortiz also said police have been harassing him.READ MORE: 2 Dozen Members Of Military Begin Serving As Pandemic Reinforcements At Newark's University Hospital
“It’s payback for him exposing what they did to Eric Garner and the bad things that they were doing,” she said.
Ortiz said her husband believed police were trying to set him up.
“He called me and said, ‘babe, hurry up and come over here. They’re trying to pin something on me,'” she said. “The day after they declare it a homicide, you find someone next to him with a gun, and you saw him pass it off? Out in public when he knows he’s in the public spotlight? It makes no sense.”
Orta himself spoke with reporters on the phone from the courthouse, and insisted he had done nothing wrong.
“She had the gun. They didn’t find nothing on me. They didn’t find nothing,” Orta said.
Sources told 1010 WINS that Orta said during his August arrest, “You’re mad because I filmed your boy.” The NYPD said officers did not know he was the same person until he said that.
Orta was the one who shot the video of Garner being confronted by police officers on a Staten Island sidewalk on July 17 of last year. Garner died in the confrontation after an officer took him down in an apparent chokehold.MORE NEWS: Police: Another Dog Killed In Bear Attack In Sparta, N.J.
In December, a grand jury cleared the NYPD officer involved — Daniel Pantaleo — of any wrongdoing, and protests erupted on city streets.