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DEA to pay $4.1 million to student forgotten in holding cell for 5 days

July 30, 2013|By Tony Perry

A college student mistakenly left in a Drug Enforcement Administration interrogation room for five days will receive $4.1 million from the government in a settlement in advance of a lawsuit.

The settlement was announced Tuesday in San Diego by the student, Daniel Chong, 25, and his lawyer, Eugene Iredale.

"It was an accident, a really bad, horrible accident," said Chong, who added that he now suffers from post-traumatic stress disorder.

The bizarre event in April 2012 began when Chong, an engineering student at UC San Diego, went to a house near campus to smoke marijuana with friends and found himself swept up in a DEA raid.

After being questioned briefly at the DEA facility in San Diego, he was told he would be released. But, for reasons that remain unclear, he was left for five days in a 5-by-10-foot windowless room without food, water or toilet facilities.

He suffered hallucinations and was forced to drink his urine to survive. He screamed for help.

Fearing he would die, he broke his glasses and scrawled the message, “Sorry, mom” on his arm.

When he was discovered by DEA employees, he was covered in his own feces and severely dehydrated. He was rushed to a hospital, close to kidney failure and breathing with difficulty. He spent five days in the hospital.

Days later, a top DEA official apologized to Chong and ordered an “extensive review” of DEA procedures.

“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,” said William R. Sherman, who was acting special agent in charge of the DEA’s San Diego Division.

No charges were filed against Chong, whose attorney had said he intended to file a $20-million lawsuit against the federal government.

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Twitter: @LATSanDiego

tony.perry@latimes.com

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