Paragraphs 36 through 38 read: “His doctors had
for his depression and Joyce blames the
medication for his high and low mood swings. Patients on Lexapro report mood
swings and paranoia among a host of side effects, so it is advised patients
gradually withdraw from the drug.””
doctor had planned to take him off the drug, but she says her husband’s
medical surveillance fell between the cracks when the doctor left to work
In the meantime, while in Ohio, Christie was planning to
paint the garage floor and take apart, clean, and re-assemble lawn furniture. He
had become more outgoing and talkative, she said. When he suddenly left
to go to Fort Myers to visit his brother, he went to a mall and opened
a department store account, things he hadn’t done
Paragraphs ten trhough twelve from the end read:
“Christie ended up at a North Fort Myers hotel. He was initially arrested for
disorderly intoxication and causing a disturbance. The
counter woman at Arby’s gave Nick a free coffee because she thought he had
Joyce says her husband couldn’t
remember her number, or his son’s. Two days later on March 27, he was
arrested again for trespassing.
This time when officers took her husband
into custody, Joyce says they locked his medications in his truck and never
Drugawareness & SSRI Stories note:
Amnesia is listed as a frequent side effect to
antidepressants in the Physicians Desk Reference. Alcohol cravings are also
known to be caused by antidepressants, as is mania and
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
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
“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
Christie, 62, was arrested last March after traveling from Ohio
to Fort Myers while suffering, what his widow describes as a mental breakdown
[manic reaction to medication]. Arrested twice for disorderly conduct and
trespassing, Nick Christie was pepper sprayed ten times over the course of his
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
His medication list was found in the back pocket of his
pants when Christie’s personal effects were returned to his
What Happened To Nick
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.
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
“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
A Failure to
Assistant State Attorney Dean Plattner says in his memo that
in order to prove manslaughter, the office would have to prove someone showed a
“reckless disregard for human life” to the extent that they should have known it
would likely cause death or great bodily injury.
“The facts of the case
do not support this level of proof,” says the office.
says he is shocked that the state attorney didn’t come to the conclusion there
was a crime.
“All he needs to come to a conclusion that there was
probable cause there was a crime. The local community should have been given the
opportunity to indict. They weren’t given that opportunity,” he
DiCello says despite the state attorney’s conclusion, the federal
case has a different standard of review.
“They have to prove beyond a
reasonable doubt there was some type of criminal intent. We have to prove it
fell beneath the standard of care and these officers knew they were violating
this man’s constitutional rights.”
DiCello says strapping an obese,
62-year-old with a heart condition and COPD to a restraining chair, pepper
spraying him and not allowing him water to wash off should qualify.
law as a matter of law defines that conduct as a violation of constitutional
rights and affords it no protection under the law,” he says.
of care is established by the county and Prison Health Services, under contract
with Lee County for $9 million annually, one of 160 contracts PHS holds
Lee County, Sgt. David Valez, tells IB News the
company is NCCHC accredited and “they must maintain that high standard.” There
is no independent review by the county.
Under the contract, PHS is
responsible for conducting a medical evaluation of everyone coming into the
Never Saw A Doctor
say Nicholas Christie was combative, despite the fact that he was restrained in
a chair so he allegedly wouldn’t spit at his jailers.
But three inmates
who shared Christie’s cell block told the Fort Meyers News-Press that they thought the use
of pepper spray was excessive and that deputies ignored the victim’s pleas for
“While he was sitting in the chair, they sprayed him two more
times,” said Ken Cutler. His whole head was turning purple and almost blue,” he
says, “He was gasping.”
The other inmates say the pepper spray was so
intense they were gagging in the cell block.
“He was constantly telling
them I can’t breathe and I got a heart condition,” he says.
Pfalzgraf, deputy chief medical examiner, concluded that stress caused by
restraint and pepper spray were irritants and stressors to his heart. He says
that 99 percent of the time those sprayed do not die. Christie was the 1
The medical examiner’s report indicates that the death was
caused by “hypoxic encephalopathy following resuscitation for cardiac arrest,
cardiac shock with congestive heart failure, physiologic stress following
restraint and noxious effects of oleoresin capsicum.”
A homicide does not
necessarily mean that the death was a criminal act only that it was caused by a
person or persons.
DiCello says take a look at Pepper Spray on YouTube videos to see it can down
someone for 40 minutes, even if it is washed off.
“You’ll see Marines
crying, now imagine being sprayed ten times, you’re obese, have COPD and having
a manic episode. Ten times and the last time not washed down for a half hour
strapped down so you can’t rub his eyes.”
Joyce Christie told IB News last June that her
husband had started showing signs of mania. He had recently retired and thought
he was going to go fishing, she said, but diverticulitis shut down his colon,
then he went into a depression after being hospitalized for COPD ( chronic obstructive pulmonary disease).
Christie had quit smoking years ago, but the former boilermaker worked
around asbestos and nuclear power plants, she says.
His doctors had
prescribed Lexapro for his depression and Joyce blames the
medication for his high and low mood swings. Patients on Lexapro report
His doctor had planned to take him off
the drug, but she says her husband’s medical surveillance fell between the
cracks when the doctor left to work somewhere else.
In the meantime,
while in Ohio, Christie was planning to paint the garage floor and take apart,
clean, and re-assemble lawn furniture. He had become more outgoing and
talkative, she said. When he suddenly left to go to Fort Myers to visit his
brother, he went to a mall and opened a department store account, things he
hadn’t done before.
Joyce Christie was so concerned she says she
contacted the Lee County Sheriff’s office and issue a welfare BOLO (Be On The
Lookout). Ms. Christie even had the sheriff of her home town contact Lee County
to stress the seriousness of her husband’s condition and the fact that he needed
to take his medication.
“He begged them to take Nick to the hospital.
They said he’s having a good time, he needs a few days away. All they had to do
was say ‘Let us talk to your doctor to confirm.’ They didn’t do it. Captain
Begowski told the officer, ‘If you don’t take him now, I’m going to tell you,
you’re going to be dealing with him in a couple of hours.’”
Christie ended up at a North Fort Myers hotel. He was
initially arrested for disorderly intoxication and causing a disturbance. The
counter woman at Arby’s gave Nick a free coffee because she thought he had
Joyce says her husband couldn’t remember her number,
or his son’s. Two days later on March 27, he was arrested again for
This time when officers took her husband into custody, Joyce
says they locked his medications in his truck and never retrieved
Joyce frantically flew to Fort Myers March 28, but police would not
let her see Nick. She says they wouldn’t even tell him she was there. Finally,
an officer suggested she could bond him out of police custody.
finally was allowed to see her husband it was too late.
He had been taken
by ambulance to Gulf Coast Hospital where Joyce says Nick’s eyes were taped shut
and he had 40 tubes taped to his body. Doctors told her he had a 10 percent
chance to live. The nurses told her when he was brought in naked that he had so
much pepper spray on him doctors had to change their gloves as they became
saturated with the orange spray.
No one in the sheriff’s office had
contacted her, and until he arrived at the hospital, Nick Christie had never
seen a doctor. Someone in the hospital, shocked by his condition, suggested she
contact an attorney.
“Nick had a life he was somebody my husband, a
father to my son. He’s somebody I miss very much. It shouldn’t have happened. He
should be here. Three weeks later I get his ashes back from Florida in a mail
truck. My husband, he was somebody, he wasn’t just a nobody,” Joyce Christie
Attorney Nick DiCello says the state attorney’s report clearing the
officers will not hurt the federal case. The fact that Christie was sprayed at
least once after being restrained in a chair with a hood over his head violates
any qualified immunity defense the county and Prison Health Services may
Besides a violation of the law, DiCello is concerned about the
violation of another human being.
“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
“A 62-yr-old retiree strapped to a chair and died. I
don’t get it.” #