Nick Christie, a 62-year-old Florida tourist, is not confined in Gitmo. He’s not in a secret CIA prison. He’s not being held by terrorists. He was, however, at the time the photo above was taken, being tortured. At least that’s what Christie’s wife claims. And clearly the man was bound, gagged, and in a lot of distress. And yes, that is pepper spray running down the center of Christie’s nude body.
So who held and tortured Nick Christie? Who stripped him of all his clothing and then restrained him to a chair? And who, after the man was clearly in no position to harm anyone, including himself, would cast aside common sense and excessively douse Christie with an exaggerated amount of pepper spray? Oddly, strangely, and shockingly, it was sheriff’s deputies who placed Nick Christie in the position you see in the photo above. And shortly after the photo was taken, Nick Christie died. A Florida medical examiner in charge of Christie’s autopsy ruled his death a homicide.
But no deputy was charged with Christie’s death. In fact, not a single deputy was even disciplined, which means an internal Lee County, Florida investigation found that jail officers acted properly and that the techniques they used when dealing with Christie were proper.
Sure, Christie was drunk and disorderly when arrested. And I’m the first to say drunks are a pain in the tush to contend with, especially when they’re non-compliant. And yes, I’m sure he’d become a real problem for jail staff. I’ve worked in a jail so I know and understand how trying and troubling it can be when prisoners are loud, abusive, destructive, and combative. Deputies absolutely must maintain control in order to, well, maintain control. And there are times when pepper spray must be used. Tasers and other devices as well. And one such device is a restraint chair, which, by the way, was used to help control Christie.
One thing Lee County jail deputies didn’t take into account was that Christie had a pretty serious medical history, a history of both mental and physical troubles. He was taking medication for depression, and he suffered from COPD and emphysema. Obviously, the man experienced trouble taking a normal breath of air, in the best of conditions.
Well, when Christie began whatever it was he did inside the jail that caused deputies to feel the need to restrain him, staff members did indeed place Christie in a restraint chair. They stripped him naked and strapped him to the device you’ll see in a photo below. I took this picture a couple of years ago to show one of the tools that’s available to help maintain control of out-of-control prisoners. However, once the prisoner is “attached” to the chair the threat he presented to himself and others is over. He can no longer do harm to anyone.
But in Christie’s case, according to news reports, deputies also sprayed the helpless man with copious amounts of pepper spray while he was restrained in the “the chair.” They also placed a spit hood over the lower half of his face, even while he begged them to take it off because he couldn’t breathe. But deputies left the hood in place and continued to pepper spray him—8 to 10 times, depending on whose story you hear. They also “fogged” Christie’s cell with pepper spray. So much of it was used in the foggings that it began to affect inmates in other areas of the jail.
The purpose of pepper spray, by the way, is to temporarily incapacitate someone until officers can restrain them. It is not intended to be used to make someone stop yelling, talking, spitting, singing, arguing, name-calling, etc. There is no other intended use for pepper spray. None. The spray should never be used as a means to punish someone. And I say this as a former police defensive tactics instructor who was certified to train officers in the use of pepper spray and in the use of force.
The same is true for a restraint chair. The device is not to be used for punishment, or for long periods of time. Speaking of the chair…
Prison and jail officers often encounter extremely violent inmates who are a serious threat to themselves, staff, and other inmates. In these situations, normal restraining devices—handcuffs, waist chains, and leg irons—are simply not enough to properly subdue the unruly prisoner. One effective means to safely restrain and transport combative prisoners is to utilize a restraint chair.
Restraint chairs completely immobilize the prisoner’s torso and limbs. Special attachments can also limit head movement. Once the inmate is securely fastened to the chair he can be wheeled (the chair is designed to tilt back on two rear wheels similar to a furniture dolly) to desired destinations, such as the medical department, court hearings, segregation and other areas, such as the special housing unit (SHU).
Again, under no circumstances should restraint chairs be used as a means of punishment. Also, prisoners should not be left seated in a restraint chair for more than two hours.
I’m guessing the civil trial regarding the wrongful death of Nick Christie will be more than interesting, especially since a jail deputy, Monshay Gibbs, has already testified under oath that she believed the way Christie was treated was excessive. Gibbs also said she heard Christie pleading with staff members to take off the mask because he couldn’t breathe.
Of course, the fact that Christie was received into the ER with pepper spray still coating his chest is a pretty damning picture as well. By the way, once someone is sprayed with pepper spray, it is the responsibility and duty of officials to seek treatment and relief for the effects of the spray on their prisoner. To leave someone exposed to the spray for a long period of time is…well, what do you think? Is it torture? Take another look at the photo.
Torture, or no?
Fox News photo
*By the way, since I was not present during the incarceration and restraint of Mr. Christie I can only offer a report based on news stories, videos, and, well, the photo above. I cannot say one way or another if there was any wrongdoing on the part of any official or by Mr. Christie. That will be for the courts to decide.