Left in a holding cell unmonitored for five days and forced to drink his own urine to survive, the Drug Enforcement Agency today paid $4.1 million to Daniel Chong out of court for his hellish detainment after his friend’s house underwent a drug raid in 2012.
“This was a mistake of unbelievable and unimaginable proportions,” Chong’s attorney Julia Yoo said on Tuesday.
DEA agents raided a house in San Diego on the morning of April 21, 2012 suspected of being used for selling drugs. The raid resulted in the detention of nine people while thousands of MDMA pills, marijuana, psilocybin mushrooms, prescription medications, multiple guns and several thousands of bullets were seized from the house. Chong, a UCSD student, happened to be one of the nine people detained but acknowledged that he was visiting a friend and had no knowledge about the presence of guns and drugs in the house. He was told that he would be let go, but DEA agents locked him in a cell and forgot to check on him for five days. The DEA admitted to never formally arresting or charging Chong.
Chong was held in a 5-by-10 foot concrete cell with no windows. There was no toilet in the cell, only a metal bench. His attempts to alert someone’s attention by yelling went unnoticed; he tried to set off the sprinkler system with his cuffed hands out of desperation, but was still unable to grab anyone’s attention. He claims to have heard footsteps and voices in the cell next to his as he yelled for help, but remained to be ignored for the duration of his detainment.
Neither food nor water was served to him for the five days of his detention. Chong was forced to drink his own urine in order to survive. Accepting death, Chong used his broken glasses to carve “Sorry Mom” onto his arm as a farewell message. According to his lawyer, Chong lost 15 pounds and suffered from severe PTSD. It wasn’t until the afternoon of April 25 when a severely dehydrated Chong was released from the DEA cell.
“I am deeply troubled by the incident that occurred here,” said DEA San Diego Special Agent in Charge William R. Sherman shortly after the incident. “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.”
Now 25-years-old, Chong has since returned the University of California San Diego pursuing an undergraduate degree in economics.
“He’s the strongest person I have ever met,” Yoo said. “As a result of his case, it’s one of the primary reasons the DEA placed a nationwide policy that calls on each agent at satellite offices to check on the well-being of prisoners in their cells on a daily basis.”