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Tompkinsville Residents Anxious to See How SI DA Handles Eric Garner Case

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With weeks to go before a planned march across the Verrazano Bridge in honor of Eric Garner, who died while in police custody, residents in the Staten Island neighborhood where it happened are hoping for charges against the police officers involved. NY1's Amanda Farinacci filed the following report.

It's Monday afternoon in Tompkinsville, and the streets are brimming with anticipation.

Residents here say they're anxious to hear how Staten Island District Attorney Daniel Donovan handles Eric Garner's death. The 43-year old died of a chokehold after a confrontation with police for allegedly selling loose cigarettes last month.

"Everybody's waiting. Everybody wants to see what's going to happen, what's the DA going to do, how's he going to pursue it," said resident John McCrae. "It's a homicide."

The district attorney's office said the investigation is continuing. Meanwhile, Officer Daniel Pantaleo has been stripped of his gun and badge, and a second officer has been placed on modified duty.

Ramsey Orta, the man who captured the now-infamous cellphone video, has himself been arrested for allegedly carrying a gun.

"His video was so severe, and it was fatal, that he was targeted," said Michelle Lassends, Orta's cousin.

Orta is still being held on Rikers Island, unable to post bail. His family has launched a public fundraising campaign to get him out of jail, and for his legal fees. They say he was arrested because he is central to the Garner case, and say unlike Officer Pantaleo, whose fate is still unknown, he was rushed through the system.

"Cops look after cops. You know what I'm saying? They look after each other," said resident Arthur Didyuk. "The reason why they processing him like that, they trying to make a statement. That's what the cops are trying to do, in my opinion."

The NYPD has publicly stood by the arrest, but Orta's wife, Chrissie, maintains that he's being scapegoated because of the video.

"He caught an officer basically commit, basically, a murder on tape out in broad daylight. He exposed it, and the day after they rule it a homicide, he allegedly gets caught with a gun?" Chrissie Ortiz said. "They're trying to make it seem like he's bashing the police or he's not credible 'cause he has a past."

In the meantime, a community meeting is planned for Tuesday night, where local leaders will discuss ways to get maximum participation in the march over the Verrazano Bridge August 23.

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