FORT MYERS, FL--A widow finally has some closure after she says her husband died from being repeatedly pepper sprayed in the Lee County Jail. WINK News Call for Action broke the story of nick christie's death back in 2009 and today a settlement was reached in the case.
Joyce Christie filed a civil lawsuit against sheriff Mike Scott, Prison Health Services Incorporated and individual deputies and nurses at the jail. The suit alleged that Lee County Sheriff's Office and their health care provider were guilty of assault and battery, excessive force and deliberate in-difference to Nick Christie's medical condition.
It started in March of 2009 when Nicholas Christie drove to Fort Myers from Ohio to visit his brother. His wife, Joyce, became worried about his mental health after talking with him on the phone.
Nick Christie suffered from clinical depression and heart disease. Joyce says he left without his medication and she filed a welfare alert.
She also told us during our first WINK News investigation that she called authorities in Florida several times.
"He is off his medication. He is manic. He is a little far gone than manic. He has a heart problem," Christie told authorities.
Nick Christie was arrested on March 25, 2009 for public intoxication and then on march 27th, Christie was arrested again for trespassing.
"Instead of taking him to the emergency room they picked him up and took him to jail," Joyce Christie told WINK News back in 2011.
According to the lawsuit, Christie was loud, belligerent and confused, but there was little evidence that he was violent.
He was strapped to a chair and over the next 48 hours was pepper sprayed 12 times. On March 29th he died in the hospital. The medical examiner says the pepper spray caused him to go in to cardiac arrest and listed his cause of death as homicide. The Florida Department of Law Enforcement completed an independent investigation and decided not to pursue criminal charges.
"I was shocked. This was something out of a horror movie," said Christie.
After years of fighting for her husband, a settlement was reached today with the Lee County Sheriff's office and the others in the lawsuit.
The family's lawyer can't give us specifics, but says it's a step forward.
"It can be a whole new type of grieving process now that their isn't the day to day pursuit of justice," said attorney Nick DiCello.
Sheriff Mike Scott would not go on camera, but he did release a statement saying the lcso will pay their portion of the settlement through a risk management fund... and the rest will come from the inmate health provider at the lee county jail.
The terms of settlement are not being released for the privacy of Joyce Christie.
Sheriff Mike Scott's full statement:
“This afternoon, a settlement was reached during mediation in the lawsuit brought against the Sheriff’s Office and its inmate health provider by the wife of the late Nicholas Christie. The Sheriff’s Office portion of the settlement is paid through the Florida Sheriff’s Risk Management Fund, a self-insurance program administered on behalf of many agencies across the state of Florida. The other portion will be paid by the inmate health provider to the Lee County Jail. The shares will be itemized in the final documents which must be filed in both the Federal and Ohio courts.”