Four different federal drug agents saw or heard a California college student during the five days he was locked in a holding cell without food or water during a drug sweep but did nothing, according to a U.S. Justice Department report.
Daniel Chong, a University of California, San Diego, student, won a $4.1 million legal claim against the Drug Enforcement Administration last year after he was caught up in a drug sweep in April 2012 but never charged with a crime.
According to federal investigators, DEA agents ignored Chong’s condition because they assumed someone else was responsible for him and because they lacked training on tracking and monitoring detainees at the Kearney Mesa detention center, reported U-T San Diego.
Chong came forward afterward to report that he drank his own urine and tried to eat his broken glasses in a suicide attempt while handcuffed for days inside a cell.
The admitted pot smoker told authorities he had gone to celebrate the unofficial 4/20 holiday with some friends when he was arrested with six others in connection with an investigation into an ecstasy ring.
DEA agents interviewed him at the field office the following day, a Saturday, and told him he would be released without charges and driven home.
But agents forgot about Chong, and he spent the next four-and-a-half days locked in a 5-foot-by-10-foot cell without food, water, or a toilet, and his screams for help went unanswered.
When authorities finally discovered him, he was near death and was hospitalized for four days to prevent kidney failure.
Office of the Inspector General became involved after received a tip that local DEA authorities were trying to contain the matter to San Diego, and the report rebukes the office for beginning to investigate the matter on its own – using at least two agents who were involved in neglecting Chong.
The Inspector General found that managers in the DEA’s San Diego field division violated policies and “showed poor judgment.”
No criminal charges were filed against the DEA agents, and DEA officials declined to say whether anyone has been fired or discipline in connection with the case.