Daniel Chong, Student Abandoned by DEA in Interrogation Room, Receives $4.1 Million Federal Settlement for Maltreatment
UC San Diego student Daniel Chong reached a settlement in court on Tuesday for mistakenly being left in a Drug Enforcement Administration interrogation room for five days without food or water, the Los Angeles Times reports.
Chong, 25, will receive $4.1 million from the federal government to settle his claim for maltreatment.
"It was an accident, a really, really bad, horrible accident," Chong told the LA Times.
Chong's lawyer, Eugene Iredale, told the LA Times his client has undergone intensive psychotherapy and is suffering from post-traumatic stress disorder.
"[What happened to Chong] should never happen to any human being on the face of the planet," Iredale said.
The incident happened April 20, 2012, also known as 4/20, a celebration for those who smoking marijuana. Chong reportedly went to a house near the University campus to smoke pot with friends and found himself in the middle of a DEA drug raid.
"Officers from several police agencies raided the house and found large quantities of ecstasy pills and hallucinogenic mushrooms, plus weapons and ammunition, according to court documents," the LA Times reports. "Unknown to Chong, the house had been under surveillance for days."
Chong, along with eight other suspects, were taken into custody for interrogation. After questioning, Chong was told by the DEA he would be released.
No charges were filed against Chong.
For an unknown reason, Chong was left in the interrogation room for five days in a 5-by-10-foot windowless room without food, water or toilet facilities. After losing weight from being stuck in the room, Chong was able to get out of the handcuffs, according to the LA Times.
During his time in the room, he suffered from hallucinations, attempted to break a fire sprinkler to get water, but was unsuccessful.
In order to survive, Chong had to drink his own urine. Chong was reportedly in the dark for the last two days, and feared he would die in the room. In wild desperation, he broke his glasses and wrote the message "Sorry, mom" on his arm.
DEA employees found Chong covered in his feces and severely dehydrated, according to the LA Times. He was sent to the hospital and admitted for the next five days.
The Department of Justice's Office of Inspector General is investigating the incident.
Chong told the LA times he did not scream at first because he did not believe they had forgot about him. When the employees found him, they were in complete shock.
A top DEA official apologized to Chong and ordered an investigation of DEA procedures.
"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," said William R. Sherman, who was then acting special agent in charge of the DEA's San Diego Division.