Student Abandoned in DEA Cell Nearly Dies

By McCarton Ackerman 05/03/12

A San Diego student arrested for drugs was abandoned for four days with no food or water.

An unforgettable 4/20 for Chong. Photo via

A 4/20 celebration nearly proved deadly for a San Diego studentand it was the irresponsibility of the DEA that almost cost him his own life. 23-year-old Daniel Chong and eight others were arrested after DEA agents raided his home on April 21 and found 18,000 ecstasy pills, along with drugs and guns. Chong says the DEA then locked him in a windowless holding cell and forgot about him for four days. Left without food or water during that entire stretch, he was forced to drink his own urine to survive and contemplated suicide by scrawling "Sorry Mom" on his arm with his glasses. He also futilely attempted to set off an overhead sprinkler system to get water and screamed as loud as he could. After two days without food or water, he began to hallucinate and imagine "Japanese animation characters who told him to dig into the walls to search for water." When his door was finally opened on April 25, Chong was hospitalized for five days and treated for a perforated lung, possible kidney failure and other illnesses. William R. Sherman, the acting special agent in charge of the DEA in San Diego, apologized to Chong in a statement on Wednesday and said he has ordered an investigation into the allegations; but Chong acquired a lawyer that same day to file a $20 million lawsuit against the government agency. “How they failed to realize he was there or ignored him is beyond comprehension,” said Chong’s lawyer Eugene Iredale, who has compared the DEA's treatment of Chong to torture.

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McCarton Ackerman is a freelance writer and editor living in Portland, Oregon. He has been a contributor for The Fix since October 2011, writing on a wide range of topics ranging from medical marijuana in Colorado to the world's sexiest drug smugglers. Follow him on Linkedin and Twitter.