An arrest for marijuana possession turned into a hellish experience for college student Daniel Chong, who was handcuffed in a Drug Enforcement holding cell for five days without food or water, and later found half dead. This outrageous incident was not the result of some cruel and unusual torture tactic, but rather the scatterbrained, pass-the-buck mentality of federal drug agents.
Earlier this week, a government watchdog released the details of their investigation into the highly publicized incident, which finds that at least four employees with the DEA witnessed or heard Chong in his cell, but ignored his cries for help because they believed he was someone else’s responsibility.
In April 2012, Chong was taken into custody during a raid on suspicion of being part of an organized drug ring. Although he was cleared of any wrongdoing, agents placed him in a holding cell and told him he would be released soon. Five days later, Chong was discovered seriously ill and suffering from kidney failure, which led to him spending the next several days in intensive care.
It was later discovered that Chong, who is now 26 years old, fought for his survival by drinking his own urine, while maintaining some semblance of faith that agents would soon return. “I had to do what I had to do to survive,” Chong told reporters. “It’s so inconceivable. You keep doubting they would forget you.”
The report found that several DEA agents dismissed Chong’s presence in the cell because they were all under the assumption that another agent would return momentarily in order to process him. Although a summary of the report indicates, “There was nothing unusual about their encounters with Chong,” the incident has since prompted the DEA to implement new policies in regards to how detainees are processed.
Perhaps the new policy changes are due to the $4.1 million settlement the federal government was forced to pay Chong last year as restitution for contributing to his “near-death experience.”
Regardless, the Justice Department’s inspector general has recommended the DEA develop and implement procedures for dealing with suspects in holding cells, which were not in place at the time of Chong’s incident. It is not known if the agents implicated in the report are subject to disciplinary action. However a spokesperson for the DEA says the incident is an “ongoing disciplinary matter.”
Chong’s attorney, Gene Iredale said that Daniel is “doing well” and is too busy studying for midterms to comment on the case.
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