CONTACT: Berkeley Copwatch Andrea Prichett: (510) 229-0527 BerkeleyCopwatch@yahoo.com
FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE April 7, 2020
Video Shows Unarmed Black Man Kneeling with Hands Up On March 14, 2020 at about 5:15 pm in front of US Liquors in Berkeley, an African American man was on his knees with empty hands outstretched while five Berkeley Police officers detained and then shot him with a “less-lethal” round. In a video recording of the incident provided to Berkeley Copwatch, the man is seen talking to the officers, one of whom is standing about 12 feet away and pointing a less-lethal weapon directly at him. At least one witness recorded the precise moment when the officer decided to shoot what appears to have been a rubber bullet directly at the man’s torso. The man collapses in pain and is quickly surrounded and handcuffed by the other four BPD officers on scene. According to another witness, the man was taken away from the scene in an ambulance.
See the video here:
Troubling questions about the incident include: ● If the man was on his knees, unarmed and surrounded, is shooting him in this situation misconduct or a crime? ● What happened to this man? Was he arrested? Released? Why is it not possible to get information about this incident? ● Was the fact that he was on his knees evidence that he was already following officer commands? How did officers justify this shooting in their report? ● Where are the records of this incident and when will they be released?
Copwatch has made every effort to provide this video to the unidentified man so that he can use it in his own defense. If members of the public recognize him, please let him know that we can help connect him to additional witnesses.
It is very troubling that our requests to the Berkeley Jail asking for the name of the individual in question were denied. Calls to the Public Defender failed to locate any person or incident meeting this description. The District Attorney provided no assistance other than to suggest that we file a complaint with the Berkeley Police Department’s Internal Affairs Bureau (which we will not do because we do not believe they should be investigating their own crime). Because the man was taken away in an ambulance, medical professionals will not disclose information about the individual. Our California Public Records Act (CPRA) request to BPD was met with a form letter explaining that CPRA requests will be significantly delayed in Berkeley due to the COVID-19 virus.
Copwatch understands that these are difficult days for everyone and that many local departments are understaffed. However, without publicly available information of who is arrested and on what charges, our city runs a very real risk of “disappearing” people. If there is misconduct, there becomes no possibility of public accountability.
● We demand public release of the police report, Use of Force reports, and access to the body camera footage from all officers involved in the incident. ● We demand the immediate suspension of all officers involved until all relevant evidence is produced and this incident is thoroughly investigated by Berkeley Copwatch and independent experts. Copwatch will conduct an independent, People’s Investigation. We will collaborate with credible professionals including Adante Pointer, civil rights attorney with the Offices of John Burris. In response to the footage, Pointer explained, “We don’t know the full picture, but based on what I see, this is someone who has complied, was on his knees and was not a threat. Why would these officers use that type of force? At that range, these munitions can cause serious injury or even death. Berkeley police need to account for this behavior by its officers and an independent investigation of this incident is definitely warranted.”
For additional comment, Adante Pointer may be contacted at: 510-839-5200
Ramsey Orta and other inmates in the New York State Prison system are extremely vulnerable to the COVID-19 virus. If Governor Cuomo does not act now, it will be blood on his hands.
Our lives changed on July 17, 2014 as images were broadcast across the globe of Staten Island plain clothes officers choking Eric Garner to death. For Ramsey Ora, the young man who filmed the killing, it would start a cycle of state sponsored repression that continues to this very day.
After the release of the Eric Garner video, Ramsey was targeted and arrested by NYPD officers on trumped up gun charges and only a few months later was also indicted on multiple drug charges. It didn’t stop there. While locked up on Rikers Island, Ramsey, along with other inmates, was able to document that yes, rat poison had intentionally been put in their food.
Upon his release, Ramsey was attacked by the media in a coordinated campaign to paint him as a criminal. However, Ramsey stood strong and in October of 2016, he began a four year prison sentence as part of a plea bargain. But the abuse did not end there. Early on, Ramsey was informed by corrections officers that they knew who he was and he was relocated to the Canadian border hours away from his community.
Throughout Ramsey’s incarceration, he has been harassed by guards, ticketed, and systematically isolated. He has been transferred to 10 different facilities, and been put into solitary confinement 7 times, where he has spent well over a year all together. To put it bluntly, Ramsey has been tortured by the New York State Department of Corrections.
For his fiancé Deja Richardson, and myself Jacob Crawford, this has been a journey of disempowerment and despair. For the first two years of Ramsey’s incarceration, we couldn’t get a lawyer to even listen to us. As we get closer and closer to Ramsey’s release this summer, the abuse is only increasing.
As the world is changing before our eyes, we must not forget about our community behind bars. This past week a corrections officer in Rikers Island prison has died and from the COVID-19 virus and there are over 40 more incarcerated people infected there.
This pandemic is not isolated to Rikers Island. It is spreading and it is spreading fast. Ramsey has been in solitary confinement up at Midstate Correctional Facility since the outbreak. We are concerned that under the current situation that the NYDOCC will take this opportunity to allow Ramsey to die so they can be done with him once and for all. The letter below is written by Ramsey’s fiancé, Deja Richardson who has bottom-lined his support these past three years. She has been his rock, the source of his strength, and we are encouraging anyone reading this to contact the Governor of New York, the New York Prison systems, and the ACLU and demand that Ramsey and other inmates are released. People behind bars don’t deserve to die because of government negligence. Jacob Crawford / WeCopwatch
Ramsey is eligible for release. He pled out to a drug sale charge and a non-violent felony D gun charge. He should be home, safe with his lived ones.
We are asking people to call flood these folks not because we have faith in the very system that created and profits from the prison industrial complex, but because we know that in this moment in time if we come together and do this, Ramsey could be home tomorrow quarantining with his Fiancé Deja. Let these people know that the inhumane treatment of Ramsey Orta and other inmates is unconscionable.
William Burns Deputy Superintendent for Security 315-768-8581 ext 5000 William.firstname.lastname@example.org
William D. Fennessy Superintendent 315 768 8581 ext 2000 William.Fennessy@doccs.ny.gov
Deja Richardson: “First and foremost, I hope everyone is staying safe in these unfortunate circumstances. This epidemic is taking the world by storm. So I know everyone is focused on a lot including themselves, their family, and friends. As everyone should be. But I’d also like to keep everyone informed about Ramsey and his well being.
Ramsey is being stripped of EVERYTHING day by day. They’ve taken away his God given right to wash up and have simple toilet paper. He’s not even been given the bare necessities he needs. All he has is a cot to sleep on because they’ve taken everything down to his bed sheets. If this isn’t inhumane I don’t know what it is.
Ramsey has had to endure so much in these three years that I couldn’t handle just one day of. This man has almost been poisoned, has been thrown from facility to facility, harassed, physically abused, talked to like a dog, stripped of recreation time, his mail has been toyed with, his property thrown away, packages tarnished. He has been verbally abused, lied to, further isolated by being thrown into solitary confinement numerous times, and phone calls have been restricted. I got overwhelmed just writing what he’s been thru so just imagine how it feels for him to live it. As of late, a lot of inmates have been granted permission to go home because of this virus. I think that is the best thing this country has done for inmates. I hope people you may know were released from that hell hole. As for me I don’t have high hopes in thinking Ramsey would have that chance because my heart was broken when he was denied early parole. I’m truly scared for Ramsey being incarcerated under these conditions. If he would, by the grace of God be given early release, I’d be whole again because we’d be together instead of me worrying everyday for his safety. But I feel like knowing who he is and what he’s been thru I don’t have high expectations. Unfortunately. I’m just grateful for you guys and all that you do for him. Stay safe out there.
This last letter has been written by Andrea Pritchett, founder of Berkeley Copwatch who in March of 1990 began filming the police in the Berkeley area to document and deter police misconduct, setting a standard in best practices in monitoring the police with cameras.
” As part of a national network of police accountability groups, Berkeley Copwatch demands that Ramsey Orta be provided with opportunities for basic hygiene and washing. In these times of rampant coronavirus and increased risk of transmission, it is unconscionable that prisoners are being so deprived of basic sanitation. It is highly suspicious that Ramsey Orta, the man who made the world know Eric Garner, is being singled out for such deprivation and cruelty. It is political vendetta against him because he made the world know Eric Garner’s name and exposed us to the gross, racist behavior of numerous NYPD cops. This kind of mistreatment is politically motivated and we demand an end to such violations of his civil and human rights.” – Andrea Pritchett
We, along with thousands of others, are concerned about the well-being of Ramsey and everyone locked inside the prison industrial complex. We are asking you to help us get our people free. Inmates dying from the COVID-19 will be blood on the government’s hands. If you can help us pressure Governor Cuomo or have ideas on how we can get get Ramsey and other inmates free, please contact us at OfficialRamseyOrta@gmail.com
Thank you for your time. Deja Richardson, Jacob Crawford, Andrea Pritchett.
Here are some numbers and emails. Make some noise!
William Burns Deputy Superintendent for Security 315-768-8581 ext 5000 William.email@example.com
William D. Fennessy Superintendent 315 768 8581 ext 2000 William.Fennessy@doccs.ny.gov
If you film something fucked up with the police don’t just put it online.
In this day and age where everyone has a cellphone it is almost instinctual to press upload immediately after filming police violence. Wait! Stop for a moment and think about the well being of the victim.
There has never been an advancement in community control of the police because someone decided to release unedited video evidence immediately following an incident of police violence.
We suggest that you let the officers get their story together publicly. Your video will contradict their testimony, and it is here that you have the power to helpful.
Video evidence can get people’s charges dropped. And It can keep people from going to jail.
So before you go live, or upload something to the public, check yourself. Why do you want to release this video now without considering the victim? Could this video be used to help the victim? Could releasing this video now give police an upper hand? Could releasing this video now give police an upper hand?
If your heart is in the right place, you should try to get the video to the victim or their family, and if you have evidence you may want to speak to a lawyer as well.
Video can be used as evidence. But a lot of that lies in you being strategic.
Read more about how to use video as evidence in this handbook we made for Standing Rock.
Many of you may have heard that Ramsey has been put back in Solitary Confinement. I (Jacob Crawford) visited with Ramsey last week and have a few things to report back on.
Ramsey is standing strong, but these past few months have been really difficult for him. He wants to be home with his fiancé, not in solitary confinement up on the Canadian border.
Ramsey will be in solitary confinement til February however he can receive books and letters.
Ramsey can receive visits right now, but is asking people to hold off for the time being. He only wants visits from a couple people.
Ramsey is dealing with a lot of stress. It’s clear our brother is overwhelmed and he really needs his family. He has experienced a rough incarceration, and he is having a difficult time preparing for his return home.
In recent months people have been coming out of the woodwork with propositions ranging from book deals, to movies, to inappropriate advances.
Ramsey doesn’t want to hear it. If you have an inquiry, email OfficialRamseyOrta@gmail.com and someone will reach out. Ramsey has been less responsive to letters in general, but the recent influx of inquiries has made Ramsey stop responding to letters all together.
Ramsey has a lot of things he wants to do when he gets out,
but the most important things to him are to be with his loved ones, and to get back on his personal projects.
Ramsey wanted to make sure that people know that he is grateful and apologetic for not being as responsive as he has been in the past. He just needs some space to make sure he is grounded, and prepared for his return home. He hopes that him taking some personal time doesn’t alienate people.
Here’s how you can help.
If you are going to write please do so with compassion and dignity.
We need a prison rights lawyer that can help with Ramsey’s transition home.
We need to intensify our fundraising efforts for Ramsey. If you and your community want to throw an event for Ramsey, we would gladly come and present.
1. We need to keep his PayPal full for visits, phone, and commissary
2. We need to continue growing Ramsey’s welcome home fund.
As always if you want to write Ramsey you can at
Inmate Mailing Address:
Ramsey Orta 16A4200
Collins Correctional Middle Rd
P.O box 340
Collins, NY 14034
Important note. You must put your contact information in the return to sender part, or Ramsey will not receive the letter.
Hood Novels: Ramsey has gotten his fill on revolutionary theory for the moment.
Book Puzzles: While they are a hit or miss, Ramsey will defwork a puzzle when he is solitary.
I know where he is, and Ramsey knows where he is. If you go to NYDOCCS inmate search and you too can find out where Ramsey is. He’s at Collins Correctional Facility in Upstate New York. We are concerned because it doesn’t appear that the internal inmate tracking system at Collins Correctional knows where Ramsey is.
Since his transfer to Collins back in May to serve 90 days of solitary confinement Ramsey has not been receiving all of his package and worse, he has been missing court dates.
The reason? We’re not sure. We’ve heard an explanation that he had been moved around inside the facility. Other times it has come in the form of returned packages stating that Ramsey is not even at Collins Correctional Facility.
Prison ID Number A prisoner’s ID number is one of the most dehumanizing ways to identify incarcerated people. Yet prisons claim they do it so that facilities are calibrated, knowing where a prisoner is at any given time, along with any information associated to them.
Ramsey has been at Collins Correctional for around five months, and while he has not been targeted, harassed, and isolated as of yet (which is a New York Department of Corrections tradition when it comes to dealing with Ramsey), the fact that Ramsey is not being notified of his court dates or of his packages being returned is disconcerting and not in accordance with prison policy.
Packages Prisoner’s can receive packages. In a situation where a package is rejected or returned, the prisoner is to be notified of the package, who sent it, and why it was returned. Ramsey has not received packages on multiple occasions. Even worse is that he doesn’t not know what packages and letters have been returned because he is only finding out about this through communications with his outside support network. The prison is not informing him about his packages as required.
Court Dates Ramsey has missed two court dates in recent months because he was neither notified nor retrieved. This is also very alarming because the excuse that has been offered is that they didn’t know where Ramsey was housed.
Remember, a prison ID number is a facility’s key to knowing the exact location and status of any prisoner at any given time.
We have multiple examples which we are forwarding to his legal support, but for the time being we are asking everyone who writes or sends letter to Ramsey to be documenting the day you send it, and take a photo of the envelope. If you want to ensure that it reaches him you can follow up by emailing us at firstname.lastname@example.org and we’ll let you know.
Ramsey’s current information
Inmate Mailing Address: Ramsey Orta 16A4200 Collins Correctional Facility P.O Box 340 Collins, NY 14034
Be sure to put your full name and address on letter or it will be returned.
You can also donate directly to Ramsey using his Paypal
Ramsey Orta was denied early release this week, meaning he will likely be released in mid 2020. We had hoped for better, but this decision was consistent with a long and predictably cruel pattern of abuse that has followed Ramsey ever since he began serving his four year sentence in the fall of 2016.
What world do we live in when a cop can kill a man on video, and 5 years later he walks free, while the person who showed you what happened, sits in a prison cell?
What kind of world do we live in where our heroes are abused, and our abusers are treated like heroes?
Ramsey has been moved to 8 or 9 facilities and been placed in solitary confinement at least five times. Daniel Pantaleo has remained with NYPD until recently, and this week has raked in over 100k in donations.
Ramsey should be free, and Pantaleo should be held accountable to the people whose lives he has destroyed. But let’s not expect justice from the very system that has the public accepting job terminations for a murderer. Let’s not expect that Ramsey will not endure more abuse before he is released. We live in a world that is broken for some, but running real smooth for others. We don’t have faith in this system correcting itself. But we do have faith in you collectively determining when you have had enough.
We don’t have a choice but to continue moving forward, and in that spirit we want to thank you all and encourage you not to give up. We made the call and you answered. Many of you have been directly effected by these very issues. The frontline is everywhere, and there are many Eric Garner and Ramsey Ortas out there. So we humbly thank you for taking time to support Ramsey and helping highlight the injustice he has faced.
As we prepare for Ramsey’s final year in state prison we have several things we are working towards and if you or folks you know are down to support, please contact us. OfficialRamseyOrta@gmail.com
1. We ask that you continue to share and amplify Ramey’s message. We need to keep Ramsey safe, and while we have stronger legal support than we did three years ago, you have helped get the word out about what Ramsey is facing inside jail, and that helps keep Ramsey safe.
A man was murdered, a police officer got away with it, and we still have a man down. It’s frustrating to see so many people and groups not using their positions of power to help Free Ramsey Orta. Let’s not let people talk about Eric Garner and Officer Pantaleo anymore without speaking about Ramsey Orta. Ramsey may not be perfect, but he is paying the ultimate price for having more courage and dignity than most people we know.
2. Ramsey needs human contact. Most of Ramsey’s PayPal donations are used to keep Ramsey in touch with his community. He needs to be visited, and he needs to be able to make phone calls. Ramsey’s fiancé Deja visits him once a month. These visits keep Ramsey strong, and they keep us informed with Ramsey’s needs so that his lawyers, his support team, and the public are all on the same page.
We will be posting monthly should funds be low, but you can always support Ramsey through donating to his PayPal . OfficialRamseyOrta@gmail.com
3.The Ramsey Welcome home Fund.
We need to make Ramsey whole. He deserves far more, and has lost everything standing on his principles, and while this fund will not give back the years taken from him, it will ensure that Ramsey comes home to both a supporting community, and some financial security.
This week media across the country took a moment to speculate on whether departmental policies were violated in the August 2014 police chokehold death of Eric Garner on Staten Island. A non-criminal departmental trial for Officer Daniel Pantaleo underscores both the power and limitations of using video as evidence.
We know Eric was killed because Ramsey filmed it. These images were broadcasted to the world galvanizing a movement against police abuse and white supremacy. But regardless of the video, nearly 5 years later there have been no criminal charges against Pantaleo, rather a highly publicized kangaroo court of sorts to determine something that we already know. Pantaleo killed Eric Garner using a chokehold against departmental policy. We do not find it a coincidence that Ramsey was thrown back into the Box this week following his testimony against Daniel Pantaleo via video from Groveland Correctional facility in upstate New York where he is currently incarcerated.
In March of this year, Ramsey wrote a letter articulating that several officers had been threatening to set him up. Since that letter, Ramsey has been ticketed, given loss of privileges, and held in confinement following a visit. Ramsey being put into the Box is in retaliation for him testifying against Pantaleo, but it is also part of a bigger, methodical cycle of harassment and abuse that has rotated Ramsey in and out of solitary confinement 4 times, and moved him through 11 New York State correctional facilities during these past couple years.
This abuse is articulated exstensively in Chloé Cooper Jone’s article Fearing For His Life, but we wanted to show an abridged timeline of these events to help you visualize what Ramsey is dealing with.
October 2016, Ramsey is put in Otis Bantum Correctional Center and processed. By Late October Ramsey is transferred temporarily to Down State and by November he is moved over to Fishkill Correctional. There he is approached by correctional officers asking is he is the one who filmed Eric Garner. In Fishkill Ramsey cut by an inmate and by January 2017, he is transferred to Franklin Correctional Facility in upstate by the Canadian border. At this point, Ramsey has begun to accumulate tickets, which lead to loss of privileges, and in March of 2017 Ramsey is put in the Box for the first time. In October of 2017, Ramsey is attacked by a correctional officer and thrown in the Box again. Ramsey if eventually moved to Gouverneur Correctional Facility where in January of 2018, he is thrown in the box again for 60 days. By February, Ramsey is moved to Altona and by August, is put back into solitary confinement for 90 days and shipped to Upstate Correctional Facility. Somewhere in this ordeal Ramsey is sent back down to Fishkill and transferred back upstate to Groveland Correctional Facility where he resides today.
Ramsey has been dragged through the mud, only to be dragged through the mud some more. In the coming days, we will be finding out more about Ramsey’s situation and how long he will be in solitary. For the moment we ask that you keep Ramsey in your thoughts.
Ramsey Orta 16A4200
Collins Correctional Facility
Middle Road p.o box 340
Collins ny 14034
Be sure to put your name and address on envelope or letter will be returned..
You can donate to his commissary using PayPal with OfficialRamseyOrta@gmail.com.