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Pasco County jail inmate dies of injuries from fight in cell

LAND O'LAKES — A Pasco inmate was taken off life support and died Thursday from injuries he received during a jail fight Saturday, according to family members.

Christopher Koenig was punched by another inmate around 5:30 p.m. Saturday. He fell, hit his head on his metal bunk and then the concrete floor — but was not taken to the hospital until the next morning, ex-wife Shawna Koenig said.

That's where doctors discovered Christopher Koenig, 36, had a fractured skull and bleeding in his brain. Shawna Koenig believes his life could have been saved if he had gotten medical treatment sooner.

"This is inhumane," said Shawna Koenig, 35. "Somebody wouldn't even do this to a dog."

The Sheriff's Office says the agency followed protocol and said Koenig was sent to a hospital around 4 a.m. Sunday, after he exhibited signs of injury.

Koenig had been incarcerated in the Pasco jail since April 30 on charges that he stole and pawned nearly $700 worth of his mother's jewelry, antique toy trains and a drill to feed his drug habit. Koenig's previous arrest history was not violent and was drug related: arrests for possession of cocaine in 2006 and again in 2007, as well as possession of drug paraphernalia. He pleaded no contest in all of those cases.

He's never served time in prison, according to the Florida Department of Corrections.

Koenig, a plumber, had been living with his mother, Noreen Koenig, 63, at her home in Gulf Highlands since his divorce in 2008. His mother told investigators she "is not happy with his drug activities" and "knows her son needs help," a report states.

When reached by phone Thursday, Noreen Koenig's voice broke.

"They left him in his cell," she said.

She said all she wanted was for her son to get help.

"I hope this never happens to another person," she said, crying.

About 5:30 p.m. Saturday, a deputy noticed inmates crowded around Koenig, who was on the ground near his bunk, said Kevin Doll, spokesman for the Pasco County Sheriff's Office.

Doll said Koenig was incoherent but denied being in a fight. Other inmates told the deputy that Koenig had a seizure and fell out of his bunk. Doll said a nurse examined Koenig and he was sent to the medical unit for observation. He said Koenig's eyes were not dilated, which would have been a sign of head injury. He said Koenig began behaving strangely around 3:30 a.m. Sunday and an ambulance took him to a hospital about 4 a.m.

The case remains active and inmates are still being questioned, Doll said. He said witnesses later said Koenig had been hit by another inmate named David Fink, 28, who has been at the jail since April 8 for failing to appear in court on charges of burglary of an occupied dwelling and violating his probation.

Fink is a felon who has served two stints in prison, totaling more than four years, for carrying a concealed firearm, shooting or throwing a missile at a building or vehicle, burglary of an occupied dwelling, two counts of grand theft of a motor vehicle, criminal mischief, battery and lewd and lascivious molestation of a child aged 12 to 15 by a suspect younger than 18.

Fink told authorities he knocked Koenig out "with one punch," a report states.

Doll would not comment on a possible cause for the fight, saying the case was still under investigation.

Shawna Koenig said her ex-husband was not a fighter.

"He would always walk away," she said.

Authorities said it appears Koenig, after being punched, hit his head on his metal bunk and then the concrete floor.

Shawna Koenig said the family has hired a private investigator and is talking with an attorney. She said doctors told the family that Koenig could have survived if he had been immediately treated.

"He would have been okay," she said.

She and Koenig were high school sweethearts who married in 1996. They have two children: daughter Breanna, who is 14, and son Sean, who is 11.

Shawna Koenig said her ex-husband slipped into a coma Sunday and was pronounced brain dead Wednesday. He was an organ donor, she said.

She said she and Koenig remained close friends after the divorce.

"I'm mad. I'm angry. I'm sad," Shawna Koenig said.

Doll said there is an internal affairs investigation into Koenig's death, which is protocol any time there is the serious injury or death of an inmate.

He said Fink is no longer in the general population of inmates. He has been segregated into a high risk group "with other inmates who are watched more closely."

Fink was charged with aggravated battery in the fight. Doll said the State Attorney's Office could increase the charge.

Times researcher Caryn Baird contributed to this story. Erin Sullivan can be reached at esullivan@sptimes.com or (727) 869-6229.

Pasco County jail inmate dies of injuries from fight in cell 05/19/11 [Last modified: Thursday, May 19, 2011 8:58pm]
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