Twenty-three-year-old Ramsey Orta, who videotaped NYPD officer Daniel Pantaleo putting Staten Island man Eric Garner in a fatal chokehold last summer, was not the only witness to capture cell phone footage of the scene last July 17th. Witness Taisha Allen, 37, a friend of Garner's, captured NYPD officers, paramedics, and EMTs milling around the sidewalk for several minutes before administering aid to the dying man.
Now Allen, who testified for the Richmond County Grand Jury last December and has since been vocal about the jury's decision not to indict Pantaleo, is suing the city on allegations that NYPD officers falsely arrested her, and then beat her, as retaliation for her cell phone footage.
The arrest took place this February, in Sound Beach, Staten Island. "I saw my friend was being stopped by the police after I sent him to the store to get some ingredients to finish dinner," Allen told the News.
According to the lawsuit filed in Brooklyn Federal Court, Allen asked the officers why her friend was being stopped. Officer Stephen Damico allegedly responded, "Oh, you are that bitch that filmed the Eric Garner video," and proceeded to arrest Allen, allegedly without first asking for her identification.
Then Allen tried to walk away. From the News:
"Several" officers grabbed and threw half of her body over a fence, twisting her arms as she "screamed in agony," the suit says.
"I had an injury to my ankle two months prior, I was screaming for my ankle, but they beat me with the baton and dragged me," Allen [said].
Allen, who was treated at Staten Island University Hospital, ultimately pled guilty to disorderly conduct and obstruction, and got five days of community service.
Reached by phone, Allen's lawyer Aymen Aboushi described the circumstances under which his client took the plea deal. "Taisha was injured," he said. "She left the hospital handcuffed to two crutches." According to Aboushi, Allen was held in police custody for two-and-a-half days. "She was essentially coerced into taking a plea deal," he said, "because she was presented with the facts while she was in pain, and they said she would stay in custody unless she took the deal. She just wanted to go home."
Aboushi added, "I think this case is important in the grand scheme of things, because it pushes back against NYPD retaliation. Given the current culture out there of greater police accountability, I believe it's imperative for the NYPD to know that retaliation will not be condoned. This will not be tolerated."
The suit was filed yesterday in Brooklyn; Aboushi and his client have not determined a settlement amount.
An in-depth investigative report by the New York Times, published in June, described how Allen was scolded while she testified before the Richmond County Grand Jury, for describing Pantaleo's grip on Garner's neck as a chokehold. This despite the fact that the NYC Medical Examiner's Office attributed Garner's death to a chokehold.
Last week, Ramsey Orta made bail after being arrested for allegedly selling fake MDMA to an undercover police officer in June—the third time the cell-phone videographer has been arrested since his footage sparked global condemnation of the NYPD. His lawyer, William Aronin, echoed Aboushi's sentiment. "There's something wrong here," he said. "This is retaliation, and we plan to show that to the jury."