Back in July 2014, the world was horrified as we watched a cell phone video of 43-year-old Eric Garner being put in a chokehold, wrestled to the ground, repeatedly saying, “I can’t breathe,” and subsequently dying over and over again every time the video was played. It wasn’t a movie; it was real life.
Ramsey Orta, a 23-year-old from Staten Island, is the man who shot that video. Now he’s being held at Rikers Island on $100,000 bond. According to TheFreeThoughtProject.com, Orta is currently refusing to eat because he fears retaliation from police—in the form of rat poison.
He might be smart to be skipping meals, since according to the New York Post 19 fellow inmates at Rikers Island claimed they had been fed rat poison in their meatloaf last month. A Brooklyn federal judge subsequently declined to order the city Department of Corrections to perform medical testing on those inmates after they reported feeling violently ill after consuming the tainted meatloaf.
Photo: GoFundMe/Lisa C. Mercado
Since the Eric Garner video was released, Orta claims he has been harassed by police non-stop. In August 2014, he was arrested on gun possession charges that he claimed were retaliatory. In an interview with Staten Island Live at the time, he said,
Staten Island Live also reports that in February 2015, Orta, his mother Emily Mercado, and his friend Michael Batista were arrested along with four other defendants on drugs charges. Prosecutors alleged that they were selling various amounts of crack cocaine, heroin, and marijuana. All of the defendants have denied these allegations, and the case was adjourned until the end of March.
Since Orta has been fearing for his safety, and his family could not afford the bond set, they have been campaigning on GoFundMe to raise the money. As of last night, they exceeded their $16,000 goal and have raised $17,258 as we write this. Social justice groups like TheFreeThoughtProject.com and the National Action Against Police Brutality have also been boosting the GoFundMe campaign and awareness of Orta’s case.
Last month, TIME’s video interview with Ramsey Orta—which incorporated Orta’s original cell phone video of Eric Garner’s death—won a World Press Photo Multimedia award, which is the top award available for photojournalism. It received First Prize in the Short Feature category.
Here is the award-winning video interview with Orta.