Posted: Aug 04, 2009 4:08 PM EDT
Updated: Aug 04, 2009 7:26 PM EDT
LEE COUNTY: An inmate died just days after officers used pepper spray to help restrain him. The Lee County Sheriff's Office and the attorney for the man's widow both confirm the federal government is looking into this death.
Officials we spoke to say it became a federal investigation because it deals with constitutional rights.
Back in March, 62-year-old Nicholas Christie was visiting his brother in Naples. After some arguments, he made his way to a couple of Fort Myers hotels where Lee County sheriff's deputies say he was causing trouble.
A sheriff's report notes that Christie was "loud and smelled heavily of alcoholic beverages and was upset his beer was missing."
Two days later, deputies arrested him again. On that occasion, it was on trespassing charges. He was taken to the Lee County Jail and that's where Christie's family says he was killed.
The family attorney, Nicholas DiCello, says deputies restrained Christie for six hours and used pepper spray on him.
"It appears that he was sprayed even after he was restrained and there were also some suggestions by some of the witnesses that a spit mask was placed over Christie's head until he ultimately stopped breathing," DiCello said.
Deputies took him to Gulf Coast Medical Center where he died from heart failure.
Officials with the Lee County Sheriff's Office wouldn't comment except to say that they are investigating, along with the U.S. Department of Justice and the FBI.
"It's out understanding that the two or three individuals that were responsible for this are still employed and have not missed a day of work as a result of this," said DiCello.
The Christie family says it wants justice, but they have been told they'll have to wait for several investigations to wrap up before that happens.