Privacy SOS

NYPD spies on and then arrests man who filmed Eric Garner’s killing

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Gather round, people who think you have "nothing to hide."

Remember when a NYPD officer approached Eric Garner, put him in a choke hold, and choked him to death? The autopsy report screamed homicide; that was clear to anyone who watched the YouTube video of Garner's killing. His friend witnessed it, and taped the entire thing.

Now the NYPD is making 22 year-old Ramsey Orta's life a living hell. His wife says Orta, who filmed Garner's tragic death, has been stalked by the NYPD for weeks now. On Saturday, officers arrested him on charges she says are bogus.

They park across the street, they follow him. I'm speaking [about] the NYPD. It's obvious. Once they rule [Eric Garner's death] a homicide, now you all of a sudden find something on him? Come on, let's be realistic. Even the dumbest criminal would know not to be doing something like that outside. So the whole story doesn't fit at all.

The NYPD can track anyone as they move through New York, by monitoring their car's movements via license plate readers and EZ Pass sniffers, tracking their cell phone using Stingrays, monitoring the CCTV cameras in their neighborhood, or following them around in person. There's nowhere to hide if they want to watch you.

Some people say they have nothing to hide, and so don't worry about this kind of pervasive, dragnet spying. If you haven't done anything wrong, why worry?

Ramsey Orta's case shows that you never know when you'll end up a target of government spying. Orta sure didn't want the cops to kill his friend, but he did the brave thing and filmed it, uploading it to the internet for the world to see. That was more than enough to sick the NYPD's omniscient eye on him.

Nothing to hide—until the cops kill your friend, or you're in the wrong place at the wrong time.

You can watch the entire video that led to Orta's targeting embedded above. Warning: it's graphic.

UPDATE: Incredible. NYPD has now arrested Orta's wife. DemocracyNow reports:

New York City police have arrested the wife of a man who filmed their fatal encounter with a father of six accused of selling loose cigarettes in Staten Island. Eric Garner died after police placed him in a chokehold and pinned him to the ground while he repeatedly said he couldn’t breathe. On Friday, the medical examiner ruled his death a homicide. A day later, police arrested Ramsey Orta, the man who filmed Garner’s arrest, on a weapons charge. On Tuesday, Orta’s wife was arrested and accused of assault. Chrissie Ortiz told WPIX Channel 11 police have been harassing her and her husband.

Chrissie Ortiz: "Four o’clock in the morning, we’re laying down, and my whole room lights up. And I’m like, 'What is that?' And we look out the window. It’s a police car. They’re driving by and put the spotlight into my window. What was that for?"

© 2021 ACLU of Massachusetts.