A University of California San Diego student abandoned in a DEA holding cell for four days, without food or water, settled a lawsuit against the Justice Department on Tuesday for $4.1 million.
Daniel Chong, now 25, was detained the morning of April 21, 2012 after DEA agents raided a house he was visiting, seizing some 18,000 pills of ecstasy, along with other drugs, several guns, and thousands of rounds of ammunition. DEA agents realized Chong was not involved and told him he wouldn’t be charged. Chong, still in handcuffs, was then placed in a 5-by-10-foot, windowless holding cell. No one would return to the cell for four days, until the afternoon of April 25.
"It sounded like it was an accident - a really, really bad, horrible accident," Chong said.
Without food or water, Chong resorted to drinking his own urine to survive. By the third day, he said he was hallucinating. Eventually, Chong thought he would die and used a piece of broken glass to carve “Sorry mom” onto his arm, but was only able to complete the “s.”
When DEA agents finally returned to the cell, they found Chong covered in feces and dehydrated. He had lost 15 pounds and was hospitalized for five days for dehydration, kidney failure, cramps and a perforated esophagus
"This was a mistake of unbelievable and unimaginable proportions," Chong’s attorney Julia Yoo said, adding that Chong has returned to school. "He changed his major from engineering to economics and wants to finish school, pursue his career and help take care of his mother."
According to Yoo, the DEA has now instituted a nationwide police that places daily calls to agents at satellite offices to check on the well-being of prisoners in each cell.