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Florida Man Tortured and Pepper-Sprayed to Death by Police

Florida Man Tortured and Pepper-Sprayed to Death by Police

It has been two and half years since 62-year old Nick Christie was tortured and pepper-sprayed to death by police at the Lee County Jail. Although the medical examiner ruled his death a homicide, the law enforcement officers who kept him strapped naked to a chair and then pepper sprayed him until he died have not been charged in his death.

On January 20, 2010, the Injury Board’s National News Desk reported that Nick Christie’s wife, Joyce Christie, and her son, were planning to file a federal lawsuit because the police violated her husband’s constitutional rights. The article describes what allegedly happened when Christie was arrested for trespassing:

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.

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 officers involved in the incident say that Christie was “combative, despite the fact he was restrained in a chair so he allegedly wouldn’t spit at his jailers.” However, other inmates on the cell block tell a different story. They say that there was excessive use of pepper spray, his whole head was turning purple, he was gasping for air and was telling the officers that he couldn’t breathe and that he had a heart condition. (source: Injury Board)

According to the medical examiner, the death was a homicide caused by the stress that the restraints and repeated use of pepper spray placed on his heart. However, the State Attorney’s office decided there was no wrongdoing, therefore the officers involved in the incident were never charged in the homicide. In a memo issued on January 5, 2010 that is lacking in any detail, Assistant State Attorney Dean R. Plattner wrote:

The evidence presented in this case does not legally prove beyond a reasonable doubt that any individual or group of jail personnel had any intent to kill Nicholas Christie, or otherwise committed an act of murder. Even considering the lowest level of criminal homicide, manslaughter, the evidence does not prove that such criminal offense was committed.

According to Joyce Christie’s attorney, Nick DiCello, it is shocking that the state attorney came to this conclusion. Even if they thought there was probable cause that there was a crime, the case could have gone forward.

Now, Fox News has obtained a photo of the incident, which “shows the Ohio man restrained inside the Lee County Jail with his body covered in pepper spray.” Di Cello explains that the “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. That evokes thoughts of being tortured.”

DiCello told the Injury News Board:

Humanity has failed here. And now they aren’t going to address the failure. Us as a people, we need to recognize we’ve all failed and make it right, not ‘Let’s just move on from this failure.’ People shouldn’t do this to people. Nothing could warrant the treatment and death this guy experienced.

A 62-yr-old retiree strapped to a chair and died. I don’t get it.

The wrongful death lawsuit is scheduled for the middle of 2012.

Sign the Petition in Support of Justice for Nick Christie.

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Photo credit: Donald Lee Pardue on flickr

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182 comments

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9:52AM PDT on Aug 3, 2012

I've been pepper sprayed by the police when I was free to turn and run, and run I did! I cannot imagine how horrible it would be to be sprayed while helpless. There's no question that it would be torture, that's for sure.

6:12AM PDT on Aug 3, 2012

I agree with Marc P. Police can do what they want and get away with it. Strapped to a dam chair, NAKED, with a hood over his head for hours, and then pepper sprayed while he fought for f*ckin AIR, DAMIT, IF BLACKS POLICEMEN HAD DONE THAT TO A WHITE MAN, THEN WHAT? YEAH, I THOUGHT SO, SO THE GOVERNOR NEEDS TO STEP IN AND DO SOMETHING ABOUT THIS. THIS SHOULD NEVER, EVER HAD HAPPENED. WHAT IS GOING ON HERE? THIS REMINDS ME OF HITLER'S DAYS, GET RID OF THOSE HE DIDN'T FEEL WORTHY OF LIVING. MIGHT AS WELL CALL AMERICA, HITLER'S PLACE. THERE SHOULD BE JUSTICE FOR THIS MAN AND I HOPE HIS WIFE WINS THE CASE. I ENCOURAGE HER TO KEEP TRYING. IF THE SYSTEM FAILS HER, GOD WILLLLLLLLLLLLLL DEAL WITH THOSE MEN INVOLVED IN HER HUSBANDS DEATH, MARK MY WORD. HIS WORD NEVER RETURNS VOID.

4:27PM PDT on Jun 3, 2012

Marian, Lindy, Nimue, others,

The state of affairs in our society is sad. We tend to adopt the characteristics of the "enemy." I miss the days when we were in competition with the Soviet Union.

Now we are competing with Middle Eastern society. Government in the Middle East has also been characterized by single party domination, but they have not displayed the social consciousness that the Communist block has had in providing for their people. They are closet Fascists.

Our society will do better if we call for them to document a bill of rights. We also have to call for the recognition of our bill of rights when infractions occur. The man's death by pepper spray was an infraction. His wife is doing the right thing with the legal suit. It expresses trust in the corrective capacity of the justice system. She will win a settlement.

8:45PM PDT on May 31, 2012

This is disgusting. It's time someone told the cops (and the Ass State Attorney too) that they are not above the law. Petition signed.

8:40PM PDT on May 31, 2012

I totally agree with Marian....we, as a society, have become hopeless....just plain hopeless...

6:36AM PDT on May 31, 2012

This is without a doubt a second degree MURDER with no statues of Limitations , However; Without public out cry demanding justice , this case has gone under the rug... The civil case has nothing to do with money, the family wants JUSTICE, no dollar amount will bring him back. The longer it takes, the further from every ones mind and the outrage slips away. Had people reacted like in the Trayvon / Zimmerman case, The State of Florida would of done something. Nick Christie doesn't have a Jesse Jackson or Al Sharpton screaming in his corner, He has a few people on the side of justice and others who close their eyes and turn their heads. I have seen thousands of people sign petitions here to save a tree in one day and only a little over 800 signatures here in 7 months.. Shame on those people who don't see this as a serious concern that demands notice . It breaks my heart , that a family is suffering and people just don't care enough to make a call, send an email or sign a petition, We have become a selfish society

5:03PM PDT on May 30, 2012

The police do not "HAVE PERMISSION" to kill anyone that they want. The bill of rights protects citizens from cruel and unusual punishment. Killing someone outside the rules for engagement or when it is not necessary is excessive force. Excessive force is cruel and unusual. If a police officer kills someone without justification, it could be prosecuted as murder. Legal precedents haven't gone there yet, but it could happen. As it is, a "shoot" that is not "clean" results in disciplinary action. The disciplinary action can include discharge. The death under consideration has resulted in a law suit against the state of Florida, because the officer was not disciplined. The state of Florida should lose the suit.

2:12PM PDT on May 30, 2012

I don't know why any one finds this shocking. You people don't get it. The police HAVE PERMISSION to kill anyone they want to. They can kill anyone at any time for any or no reason whatsoever. They can kill men. Women. Children. Elderly. Crippled. Infirm. Retarded. Mentally ill. They can kick down your door "By accident" and kill you for no reason. They can plant fake evidence on you, mace you, taser you, or taser your 6 year old and they will not be punished. Theyw ill not be prosecuted. And if the public outcry is large enough there MAY be a "Trial." - Where the officer(s) will be acquitted. This is what we get for being cowards and allowing others to "Keep us 'safe'" This is what we get for being silent when "THEY" (Blacks, poor people and others that many consider to be 'scum.') are the ones getting beat up by police. Now in many cases "They" have become "US" - Who you going to call now?

3:34PM PDT on Apr 12, 2012

Florida has been suffering from the influence of re-districting that had been implemented ten years ago. The re-districting resulted in a two for one majority in the legislature. Yes. This had been instituted while Jeb Bush was governor. Since that time none of their spending cuts have had to contend with significant numeric opposition. It has been FOR the private sector and AGAINST social programs in the public sector except for law enforcement. As noted, this was the period when the "Stand Your Ground" law had been passed. The state has been run like a police state during what some Republicans would compare to the "era of good feelings." This was a period in US history when James Monroe and John Quincy Adams served in the presidency.

9:29AM PDT on Apr 12, 2012

This is an old story I just found, and I am flabbergasted at the injustice. Florida certainly is a strange state. I think of it as a retirement state, but there seem to be a lot of losers, and worse, living and working there. They pass laws which are over-the-top (Stand Your Ground), and do not prosecute crimes, and abuse farm workers. People from across the country must send their outrage.

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