On March 27, while in a mental state of deepening confusion and distress, Christie was arrested for misdemeanor trespassing at the hotel where he had formerly lodged as a guest. Law enforcement officers then subjected the frightened and disoriented man, urgently in need of medical treatment and care, to a series of extreme “corrective” measures: repeatedly pepper spraying his face and body for a total of ten times; stripping him completely naked; strapping him to a restraining chair; and finally choking him with a “spit collar”. Christie’s pleas for medical attention were ignored; then he was rendered speechless by the spit collar.
On March 29, Mr. Christie suffered acute respiratory distress and was taken to the hospital, where he suffered numerous heart attacks and was declared dead on March 31. The deputy medical examiner ruled the death a homicide as a direct result of sustained exposure to pepper spray, residue from which still coated his entire body at the time of his autopsy. Yet Assistant State Attorney Dean R. Plattner declined to file charges, claiming lack of sufficient evidence, despite numerous eyewitnesses; Plattner has since died of an apparent heart attack.
The Lee County Jail contracted with Prison Health Services (PHS) for evaluative screenings, and for training officers in standards of appropriate response and in the use of “mental health technology” such as the restraining chair. PHS now appears to have mutated into Corizon, a corporation that still lists the Lee County Jail as a customer for their specialized “jail module”. The Corizon corporate motto: As pioneers in correctional healthcare, we continue to discover new and better ways to serve our partners.
Deeply concerned about the fate of her husband, Joyce Christie traveled to Fort Myers on March 29 and immediately proceeded to the police station, where officers refused even to confirm whether he was in custody. While she was trying to convince the police of the seriousness of her husband’s medical conditions, he was elsewhere in the building being tortured by deputies. Later, she received an anonymous phone call that he had been taken to the hospital. Officers refused to permit her to see him until she posted bond; by the time she did so, Nick Christie was close to death.
Attorneys for Mrs. Christie have filed a civil lawsuit in federal court for medical malpractice, wrongful death, civil rights violations, negligence, pain and suffering. She says: 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.