Daniel Chong, the forgotten college student left in a Drug Enforcement Administration interrogation cell for five days without food or water, has settled his claim of maltreatment for $4.1 million.
Chong, 25, and his lawyer, Eugene Iredale, announced the settlement Tuesday. It has been approved by the Department of Justice.
"It was an accident, a really, really bad, horrible accident," Chong said, according to 7 San Diego
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The DEA apologized to Chong last year and instituted a review of its practices.
What happened to Chong "should never happen to any human being on the face of the planet," Iredale said, according to The Los Angeles Times
Chong went to a house on April 20, 2012 — a well-known day for smoking marijuana — which had been under surveillance for days as a location for distributing ecstasy pills and hallucinogenic mushrooms. The engineering student was one of nine people taken into custody and detained by a multiagency narcotics task force.
Briefly questioned at the DEA facility in San Diego, Chong was told he would be released shortly. Instead, he was mistakenly left in a 5-foot-by-10-foot windowless room without food, water, or toilet facilities until April 25, when employees found him severely dehydrated. He had lost 15 pounds and drank his own urine to survive. Resigned to dying, he wrote "Sorry, mom" on his arm using broken glass.
He then spent five days in a hospital recovering from kidney failure. He has undergone intensive psychotherapy and been diagnosed with post-traumatic stress disorder.
Many wonder how Chong could've been forgotten for so long. One theory, says the LA Times, is that the officer was from a different agency, and when he left for the day, no one else knew to release Chong.
Detained on a Friday, by Monday, Chong's weak pleas for help may not have been audible outside the cell door.
"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 then acting special agent in charge of the DEA's San Diego Division, according to the Times.
Iredale said he's confident that the agency will ensure that nothing like this ever happens again.
Chong is still in therapy, but has returned to complete his degree at UCSD.
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