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.
Photo credit: Donald Lee Pardue on flickr