" "At first I didn't think it would blow up this big," Ramsey Orta told me. He was describing the video he took of his friend Eric Garner being killed by the NYPD. His voice was nearly too soft to hear.
I interviewed Orta on April 10, nine months after Officer Daniel Pantaleo had choked Eric Garner to death in front of Staten Island's Bay Beauty Supply. In December, a grand jury declined to indict Pantaleo, but Orta, his supporters say, has been the target of a police campaign to destroy his life ever since.
When I spoke to him, he was at the tail end of a two-month stint on Rikers Island, locked up on $100,000 bail and awaiting trial for drug charges. Orta is 23 years old and slight, with sharp cheekbones that his time in Rikers had made almost disturbingly prominent. Terrified of being poisoned, he'd been living off of pre-packaged commissary food since he entered jail. The fear is better founded than you might think—19 prisoners in Orta's unit are suing the city over pellets of rat poison they allege guards planted in their meatloaf."