A 23-year-old college student who was forgotten in a holding cell by federal drug agents for five days has filed a claim against the U.S. Drug Enforcement Administration for $20 million.
Daniel Chong's attorney Eugene Iredale, filed a suit on behalf of the engineering student at the University of California in San Diego, claiming that his client was subjected to "torture" following his arrest on April 21 on drug charges.
Chong was one of nine suspects in an April 21 drug raid in which drug agents recovered 18,000 Ecstasy pills, including other drugs and dangerous weapons. He was never charged and officers simply forgot him in the cell. He screamed for help and no one answered him.
The Drug Enforcement Agency apologized to Chong in a statement on Wednesday and said the incident would be investigated.
NY Daily News reports that lawyers for Chong filed a five-page notice of claim on Wednesday. The claim said: "The deprivation of food and water for four and one-half days while the person is handcuffed the entire time constitutes torture under both international and domestic law."
According to Daily Mail, Chong was left behind after seven of the nine suspects were taken to a county jail and one was released. According to Amy Roderic, spokeswoman for the Drug Enforcement Administration: "Each suspect was interviewed in separate interview rooms, and frequently moved around between rooms and cells. The individual in question was accidentally left in one of the cells."
Chong said DEA agents had told him he would be released and one of them even offered to drive him home from the DEA field office in Kearny Mesa. But he languished in cell five days before he was discovered.
Chong said that while he was held, he could hear voices of DEA agents outside his cell and the sound of the door of the next cell being opened and closed. He said he screamed aloud as he could but no one responded to his cries. He said: "I had to recycle my own urine. I had to do what I had to do to survive."
Daily Mail reports Chong said he lost 15 pounds during the ordeal. At a point the lights went off and he was left in the dark in the windowless cell, and he began hallucinating. Chong said: "I was completely insane. It’s impossible to describe hallucinations like these.'" NY Daily News reports Chong said he began seeing visions of Japanese animation characters.
Chong said he bit into the glass of his spectacles and ingested it. He also ingested white powder DEA agents left in the cell accidentally, found to be methamphetamine.
When DEA agents found him on April 25, he was taken to a hospital and treated for cramps, dehydration and perforated lungs, the effect of eating broken glass.
LAist reports that William R. Sherman, Acting Special Agent in Charge of the DEA office in San Diego, said: "I am deeply troubled by the incident that occurred here last week. 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."
NY Daily News reports that DEA protocol requires a nightly check of all holding cells.
ABC News reports Chong's attorney described his client's case as an "extraordinary story of incredible and inexplicable ineptitude, needless suffering and great courage in the face of something inconceivably ugly."
Sen. Barbara Boxer (D-Calif.) sent a letter to U.S. Attorney General Eric Holder asking for an investigation into the case. NY Daily News reports she wrote: “Please provide me with the results and the actions the department will take to make sure those responsible are held accountable and that no one in DEA custody will ever again be forced to endure such treatment."