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UPDATE: The UC-San Diego engineering student who was allegedly forgotten for days in a DEA holding cell filed a $20 million federal claim on Wednesday that describes the nearly five days he was incarcerated without food or water as "torture under both international and domestic law."
The lawyer for 23-year-old Daniel Chong told U-T San Diego that the $20 million figure cited in the claim doesn’t necessarily represent what Chong will seek in damages. Attorneys must state a demand request in advance under federal law, and the figure tends to serve as a ceiling limit for awards or settlements, he said.
Meanwhile, Chong told NBC San Diego that he lost roughly 15 pounds during the four and a half days he allegedly spent incarcerated without human contact, food, and drink after he was taken by DEA agents during a drug raid on an April 20 party.
Wednesday, May 2: The DEA apologized Wednesday to a college student who was picked up during a drug raid last month and then left in a windowless holding cell for four days without access to food or water.
The Associated Press reports that Daniel Chong, an engineering student at UC-San Diego, claims that he went to a friend’s apartment on a Friday night in April to party and ended up staying the night. The next morning, DEA agents raided the apartment and detained Chong and six others; the agency says it recovered 18,000 ecstasy hits and weapons in the raid.
After four hours at an agency field office, Chong says he was questioned by agents and told he had been in the "wrong place at the wrong time," and that he would be released. Then, he says, he was placed in the dark cell and forgotten there for four days, despite kicking and screaming for help. He grew delusional, drank his own urine for hydration, and, eventually, attempted suicide by breaking his glasses and using the shards to cut himself. U-T San Diego reports that he attempted to carve "Sorry Mom" into his arm.
In a particularly bizarre twist, Chong says he found a bag of meth in his cell and ingested it as the days wore on, rendering him "completely insane."
An agent opened the cell Wednesday afternoon and eventually called paramedics. Chong was treated for dehydration, cramps and a perforated lung caused by ingesting glass. An unnamed official told the AP that Chong was never charged and had never even been arrested.
An earlier statement from a DEA spokeswoman was somewhat combative—"he was at the house, by his own admission, to get high with his friends," she said—but a later release from William R. Sherman, a top DEA official in San Diego, said the agnecy was "deeply troubled" by the incident. "I extend my deepest apologies the young man," he said. "I have personally ordered an extensive review of our policies and procedures."
The AP reports Chong’s lawyer plans to file a claim with the federal government and, if rebuffed, proceed with a federal lawsuit.