For five days Daniel Chong was left without food or water, resorting to drinking his own urine and attempted to take his own life to end the pain of starvation.
His crime? Smoking marijuana with some friends for a 4/20 celebration. From NBC San Diego:
Chong said he was at a friend’s house in University City celebrating 4/20, a day many marijuana users set aside to smoke, when agents came inside and raided the residence. Chong was then taken to the DEA office in Kearny Mesa.
He said agents questioned him, and then told him he could go home. One agent even offered him a ride, Chong said. No criminal charges were filed against him.
But Chong did not go home that night. Instead, he was placed in a cell for five days without any human contact and was not given food or drink. In his desperation, he said he was forced to drink his own urine.
“I had to do what I had to do to survive….I hallucinated by the third day,” Chong said. “I was completely insane.”
Chong said he lost roughly 15 pounds during the time he was alone. His lawyer confirmed that Chong ingested a powdery substance found inside the cell. Later testing revealed the substance was methamphetamine.
After days of being ignored, Chong said he tried to take his own life by breaking the glass from his spectacles with his teeth and then attempting to carve “Sorry mom,” on his arm. He said nurses also found pieces of glass in his throat, which led him to believe he ingested the pieces purposefully.
So not only do they put him in a cell, but a DEA cell is literally the gateway to methamphetamine. Brilliant.
I expect Chong’s vindication will indeed be monetary, and the DEA will attempt to sweep this abuse under the rug as an isolated incident of incompetence.
He spent three days in the intensive care unit at Sharp Hospital and his kidneys were close to failing.
Chong and his lawyer spoke to the media on Tuesday afternoon to discuss the claim they will file with the federal court system on Wednesday.
“He was at the wrong place at the wrong time,” said his lawyer Gene Iredale, who compared Chong’s experience to the torture suffered by inmates at in the Abu Ghraib prison in Baghdad, Iraq
The DEA has not apologized to Chong, said Iredale.
The incident also caused Chong to miss his midterms at UCSD. He said he does not know if he will return to school, as his perspective on life has changed since his isolation.
San Diego defense attorney Gretchen Von Helms said the victim could get millions if he files a lawsuit.
“In all my years of practice I’ve never heard of the DEA or any Federal government employee simply forgetting about someone that they have in their care,” she said.
For their part, DEA San Diego Acting Special Agent-In-Charge William R. Sherman has issued a weak apology and promised to review procedure. Because nothing says “oops, we’re sorry” than identifying the exact part of the operation manual that says don’t leave a prisoner in jail without food or water and try to blame it on the arresting agent’s reading comprehension failure.
Better yet, how about some real criminal charges being filed against the DEA agents who took Chong into custody. If this is the result of a “war on drugs”, then a prosecutor should feel comfortable calling this heinous act a war crime.