Settlement reached in death

FORT MYERS, Fla. – The widow of a Girard man who died after being repeatedly pepper-sprayed in a southwest Florida jail has settled her wrongful death lawsuit against the county’s sheriff, the jail’s medical provider and several deputies and nurses.

Nicholas Christie, 62, died in 2009 after being restrained and repeatedly exposed to pepper spray at the Lee County jail.

Joyce Christie’s attorney said the settlement reached Wednesday was “well into the seven figures.”

Christie was visiting Naples, Fla., when he stopped taking his medications and began acting erratically. He was arrested March 25, 2009, and charged with disorderly intoxication. He was booked and charged with trespassing on March 27. He was taken to the hospital on March 29 and died March 31.

Ken Cutler – who was an inmate at the Florida jail – said at the time that he was in a cell near Christie and police sprayed the Girard man three times and fogged his cell with gas twice.

“You could see his whole face was blue, was purple, and he was gasping, crying that he can’t breathe,” Cutler said. “He can’t breathe. He’s having chest pains. It was over an hour before the nurse came in. They were joking about the whole incident … just laughing about the death of this man, in general.”

Cutler also said Christie was left strapped to a chair for an hour before being taken to a hospital.

The death certificate listed brain damage caused by lack of oxygen after a cardiac arrest, low blood pressure caused by heart pump failure and stress from the restraint and pepper spray as leading to Christie’s death.

The medical examiner ruled his death a homicide and said the pepper spray was a contributing factor that led to heart and brain failure.

The state attorney’s office declined to prosecute the case.