DEA apologizes for forgetting about shackled student for five days

Steven Nelson Associate Editor
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Imagine being shackled and left in a small room to rot.

For five days this was a reality for Daniel Chong, a 24-year-old University of California, San Diego engineering student detained and then forgotten about by the Drug Enforcement Administration.

Chong was detained on April 21 when agents raided the home of a drug dealer. The agency confiscated 18,000 ecstasy pills, along with other drugs and guns.

Seven people at the house were taken into custody. Five were processed and sent to county jail, one was released, and Chong was accidentally left in a cell.

NBC San Diego reports that, according to Chong, “agents questioned him, and then told him he could go home. One agent even offered him a ride.”

And then for five days, Chong was left handcuffed and alone in a 5-by-10-foot cell.

He screamed for help, and no one responded. According to Chong, he could hear DEA personnel moving in nearby rooms, but they ignored him.

Dehydrated, he drank his own urine.  At one point, he began to hallucinate and attempted to carve “sorry mom” on his arm, intending to kill himself with his broken eyeglasses.

“I didn’t think I would come out,” said Chong.

In the cell was a bag with white powder, which Chong ate. The substance later tested positive for methamphetamine. It’s unclear where the drug came from, particularly as the DEA notes that the individuals were searched before being placed in cells.

After days of misery, a DEA officer noticed an odd noise coming from the holding cell. It was Chong.

Chong was transported to Sharp Hospital, and spent three days in intensive care with his kidneys close to failing.

He has not been charged with any crime, and it does not appear likely that he will be. He did admit, though, that he had been celebrating “4/20,” a marijuana-smoking holiday, on the night he was detained.

Chong’s lawyer, Gene Iredale, announced Tuesday that he will file a federal lawsuit this week. He compared Chong’s traumatic experience to the infamous torture of prisoners at Abu Ghraib in Iraq.

Iredale said Tuesday that the DEA had not apologized to Chong.

In a statement provided to The Daily Caller Wednesday, DEA San Diego Acting Special Agent in Charge William R. Sherman did apologize for the incident.

“I am deeply troubled by the incident that occurred here last week,” said Sherman. “I extend my deepest apologies to the young man and want to express that this event is not indicative of the high standards that I hold my employees to. I have personally ordered an extensive review of our policies and procedures.”

The DEA’s main office said it will “thoroughly review both the events and detention procedures on April 21st and after.”

According to the DEA, there are only 5 cells at the facility where Chong was held.


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