MANHATTAN, N.Y. — The former Staten Island man who filmed Eric Garner’s fatal encounter with an NYPD officer is likely to be the first witness at the cop’s department trial this spring.
Ramsey Orta, who is currently incarcerated in a facility in upstate New York for drugs and weapons charges, will testify via video or will be produced in the courtroom, said attorney Stuart London after a brief hearing Thursday at 1 Police Plaza.
Video taken by Orta showed Police Officer Daniel Pantaleo wrestle Garner to the ground while Garner could be heard repeatedly shouting “I can’t breathe.”
“Orta is my hero,” said Garner’s mom, Gwen Carr, after the proceeding. “Without him we would not have been here today. We would not have known what actually happened to Eric.”
“I think they don’t want him to come because he’s the key witness..he should be there,” she added.
Pantaleo, who did not attend the hearing, will likely take the stand in his own defense, London added.
“This case is going to come down to the video, experts and the medical testimony,” he said.
The NYPD is being coy about who trained Pantaleo during his time at the Police Academy. During the conference, the Civilian Complaint Review Board (CCRB) was given a witness list of 33 instructors who could have potentially trained the disgraced cop.
“We haven’t been able to identify the instructors who trained Officer Pantaleo,” said Suzanne O’Hare, deputy chief prosecutor of the Administrative Prosecution Unit.
London said he knows who the instructor is because the witness has previously testified before the federal grand jury.
“The CCRB is trying to ascertain who the instructor was at the academy,” he said after the hearing. "I’ve already spoken to him — he’s the instructor who taught him the use of force and the use of the seatbelt method.”
The CCRB has charged Pantaleo with using a chokehold to subdue Garner during the fatal encounter on July 17, 2014 in Tompkinsville.
The defense maintains he used a seatbelt maneuver to take down Garner during his arrest. A grand jury declined to indict the officer on criminal charges several years ago.
O’Hare said she plans on calling 17 witnesses, not including the 33 names from the instructor list. London has at least 22 people on his witness list.
Carr hopes the department isn’t playing games in an attempt to delay the trial set for May 13. The trial will be about eight or nine days, London said.
“They’re not releasing the name of Pantaleo’s trainer when he was in the academy,” she said. “I hope they go forward with this trial and don’t delay it further.”
“I hope Pantaleo is fired,” she added.
Garner, 43, died when cops attempted to arrest him for allegedly selling loose cigarettes near Bay Street and Victory Boulevard in Tompkinsville.
The case is on for April 4 at 1 Police Plaza.