Tort Law

Man Says He Was Held for 5 Days as Forgotten Prisoner in DEA Cell, Files $20M Claim Against Feds


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At first, a 23-year-old engineering student at the University of California-San Diego says he was simply annoyed to be left for hours in a federal Drug Enforcement Administration holding cell after he was told he would be released without charges once his paperwork was processed.

But as hours turned into days—without food, water or toilet facilities—Daniel Chong began to fear for his life, the Los Angeles Times’ L.A. Now blog reported.

Swept up in an April 21 drug raid on a San Diego home, Chong drank his own urine to survive while trapped in the cell. By the time he was released, nearly five days later, on April 25, he said he was hallucinating and in such bad shape that he had to be hospitalized for another five days, the newspaper recounts.

“I didn’t care if I died,” he told NBC San Diego. “I was completely insane.”

Lawmakers are demanding answers from U.S. Attorney General Eric Holder, and Chong, through his counsel, has filed a $20 million claim against the federal government, according to the Associated Press, the New York Post and Reuters.

The DEA has apologized. In a written statement, William R. Sherman, the acting special agent in charge in San Diego, said he is “deeply troubled” by the incident, adding “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.”

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