Did Lee County Sheriff’s Deputies in southern Florida tie down, pepper-spray, and eventually kill a disturbed man who was arrested for public intoxication?
That’s the account and accusation relayed by Reason.com
. Over two years ago, 62-year-old Ohioan Nick Christie was detained for public intoxication while on a trip in the Tampa, Florida area.
The man’s wife asked that he be taken to the hospital, but Lee County cops allegedly decided instead
to “strip Christie naked, tie him to a chair, cover his face, and then pepper spray him repeatedly, until he died.”
A new picture recently obtained by a local news crew shows Christie’s body, swollen and stained, during the incident. And it’s sparking fresh controversy over what happened.
At the time, his death was ruled a homicide because he was restrained and repeatedly pepper-sprayed by law enforcement officers. But to this day, no one has been charged with a crime, and the Lee County State Attorney cleared the sheriff’s office of criminal fault in the case.
Here is a video, courtesy of WTVT-TV
, that gives an overview of the case:
“I was shocked. This was something out of a horror movie,” says Joyce Christie, the man’s wife.
She’s filed a wrongful death lawsuit, which alleges Nicks was pepper sprayed 10 times over a 48-hour period.
Monshay Gibbs was a deputy trainee at the jail at the time. Under oath in a video, she said that Christie had ”a spit mask on and was naked,” during his detainment. Gibbs testified that Christie pleaded with guards to take off the spit mask because he couldn’t breathe
He was eventually taken to the hospital but died of heart failure.
“This photo is a picture of a man who is strapped to a chair naked inside a jail for hours with a hood over his face,” Cleveland-based lawyer Nick DiCello, who represents the Christie family, told the station. “That evokes thoughts of being tortured.”
The widow of an Ohio man who died in police custody in Fort Myers, Florida last March, will file a federal lawsuit for violating her husband’s constitutional rights by failing to recognize that he was mentally ill.
Joyce Christie, of Girard, Ohio, and her son, plan to file the action against the Lee County Sheriff’s Office and Prison Health Services (PHS), the private company that oversees medical care for the jail, which had taken custody of Nicholas Christie for trespassing.
Her attorney, Nick DiCello (IB member), of the Cleveland firm of Spangenberg, Shibley & Liber LLP, says his firm has filed the notices required under Florida state law of an intention to sue.
“Letters of intent to file a civil lawsuit for medical malpractice, wrongful death, and civil rights violations, negligence, pain and suffering have been sent,” he tells IB News.
Christie, 62, was arrested last March after traveling from Ohio to Fort Myers while suffering, what his widow describes as a mental breakdown. Arrested twice for disorderly conduct and trespassing, Nick Christie was pepper sprayed ten times over the course of his 43-hour custody.
Suffering from emphysema, COPD, back and heart problems, the jail staff said his medical files were not available or immediately sought at the time of his arrest. But DiCello says Christie gave his medical history and list of medications to the jail days earlier during his first encounter with law enforcement.
His medication list was found in the back pocket of his pants when Christie’s personal effects were returned to his widow.
What Happened To Nick Christie?
Sometime between the time he was arrested on March 27, 2009 around 2:00 p.m., and March 31 at1:23 p.m. when he was pronounced dead, Christie had been sprayed with ten blasts of pepper spray, also known as OC (Oleo-resin Capsicum), which is a derivative of cayenne pepper.
The medical examiner has ruled his death a homicide.
On January 6, the Lee County State Attorney’s office mimicked a lengthy investigation by the Lee County Sheriff’s Office, clearing the officers of any wrongdoing in the death.
Assistant State Attorney Dean Plattner and Chief Investigator Kevin Smith found the jailers did not break policy guidelines. A separate internal review of policy was not conducted and the five corrections officers have remained on the job.
“My blood is boiling,” Joyce Christie, 59, told the News-Press
. “I knew it was going to end this way because the corrections officers were never taken off their jobs during the investigation.”