SAN DIEGO – The college student, who was left alone and forgotten in a holding cell for days, spoke out Thursday about the Justice Department’s Office of the Inspector General recently released report about the incident.
Daniel Chong said he’s living a quiet life, getting ready to graduate from University of California, San Diego.
On April 21, 2012, a DEA task force busted a pot-smoking party in University City. Chong was 23-years-old at the time and was among several others taken to holding cells in Kearny Mesa.
Chong was questioned, but not charged and was told he’d quickly be released. He was left in a window-less cell, handcuffed, without food or water or a toilet. On the brink of death, he was forced to drink his own urine. Nearly five days later, officers found him and let him out.
“As soon as I saw they were confused, I knew right away it was an accident. It was more a feeling of relief that the door finally opened. There was no better feeling than that,” Chong said.
Last summer, Chong was awarded $4.1 million in an out-of-court settlement.
Earlier this week, the DOJ’s Office of the Inspector General released a report blasting the DEA for violating policy and showing poor judgment.
The OIG investigation revealed the “DEA had no methods or procedures in place to keep track of detainees” and that four employees assumed “whoever placed Chong in the cell would return shortly to process him.”
Chong’s attorney, Gene Iredale, called the report thorough and objective.
“They did a very good job in trying to find out exactly how this catastrophe happened,” said Iredale, who is asking for the full government report to be made public.
“Because of how inconceivable it is – I would like to know what happened,” said Chong.
In a released statement, DEA spokeswoman Amy Roderick said the agency remains troubled by the incident and that a new agency-wide policy for processing arrestees and detainees is now in place.
“The DEA is confident that these measures will help to prevent similar incidents in the future,” according to the statement.