Death In The Devil’s Chair: Florida Man’s Pepper Spray Death Raises Questions About Jail Abuse
When he left his home in Ohio to visit his brother in Fort Myers, Fla. in March 2009, Nick Christie was already breaking down, physically and mentally. His wife Joyce was concerned about his well-being. Rightly so. By the end of the month, the grandfather of two, whose only prior run-in with the law was a DUI in the 1980s, would be strapped to a restraining chair in the Lee County, Fla. jail, coated with a thick layer of pepper spray, smothered in a “spit hood,” then finally taken to a Florida hospital where, two days later, he would die.
Christie, 62, a retired boilermaker, suffered from heart disease as well as emphysema, the latter the likely result of his former smoking habit and years of exposure to asbestos. A bout with diverticulitis had forced him to cancel a fishing trip the year before, and he slipped into a depression after he was hospitalized for chronic obstructive pulmonary disease, a condition that further constricted his breathing.
Christie had been taking medication for his depression, but the doctor who was treating him had recently moved. That left no one to manage Christie’s spiraling emotional state, and no one to control the possible side effects of his medication. Christie’s wife worried about his trip to Florida, to the point where s…