Student left in cell for 4 days files $20M claim against DEA
Daniel Chong, a San Diego student who was left in a Drug Enforcement Administration holding cell for nearly five days after he was allegedly forgotten about, has filed a claim for $20 million after what he described as his "life-altering" experience, NBC San Diego reported.
The 23-year-old told NBC San Diego that he was increasingly worried throughout the days he spent in a 5-foot-by-10-foot cell, and told how he drank his own urine to survive.
“They never came back, ignored all my cries and I still don’t know what happened,” he said. “I’m not sure how they could forget me.”
As NBC San Diego was first to report Saturday, the DEA confirmed its agents were investigating an incident in which a suspect, arrested Saturday, April 21, was detained at their office for several days and allegedly forgotten about.
Chong's lawyers filed the claim Wednesday, and also asked the DEA provide evidence pertaining to the incident. Chong said he was at a friend’s house in University City celebrating 4/20, a day many marijuana users set aside to smoke, when agents came inside and raided the residence. Chong was then taken to the DEA office in Kearny Mesa. He said agents questioned him, and then told him he could go home. One agent even offered him a ride, Chong said. No criminal charges were filed against him.
But Chong did not go home that night. Instead, he was placed in a cell for five days without any human contact and was not given food or drink. In his desperation, he said he was forced to drink his own urine.
“I had to do what I had to do to survive ... I hallucinated by the third day,” Chong said. “I was completely insane.”
Chong said he lost roughly 15 pounds during the time he was alone. His lawyer confirmed that Chong ingested a powdery substance found inside the cell. Later testing revealed the substance was methamphetamine.
The Drug Enforcement Administration has issued an apology to Chong.
DEA San Diego Acting Special Agent-In-Charge William R. Sherman said in a statement Wednesday that he was troubled by the treatment of Chong and extended his "deepest apologies" to him.
Sherman said the event was not indicative of the standards to which he holds his employees. He said he had personally ordered an extensive review of his office's policies and procedures.
The DEA said it was investigating why Chong was not released. U.S. Senator Barbara Boxer and Congressman Darrell Issa each asked for further investigation Wednesday.