DEA apologizes to student left in holding cell for 5 days

May 2 2012 - 3:03pm

SAN DIEGO -- The Drug Enforcement Administration has apologized to a San Diego college student who said he drank his own urine to survive after being left in a holding cell for five days without food, water or access to a toilet.

The man, identified by news outlets as Daniel Chong, a 23-year-old University of California, San Diego engineering student Daniel Chong, was "accidentally" left in the holding cell after he and eight other people were detained for questioning following an April 21 raid in which agents found guns, ammunition and an array of drugs, including 18,000 ecstasy pills, the DEA said.

"I am deeply troubled by the incident that occurred here last week," William R. Sherman, acting special agent in charge of DEA's San Diego Division, said in a statement Wednesday.

"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," Sherman said, adding he has ordered "an extensive review" of DEA policies and procedures.

Identified by the DEA only as "the individual in question," Chong and the others were swept up during a raid of a suspected ecstasy distribution operation and taken to DEA area headquarters, the agency said.

All of the suspects were fingerprinted, photographed and interviewed individually, as agents moved them among the five cells at the DEA post.

After processing, seven of the nine were taken to a county detention facility, one was released and Chong was "accidentally left in one of the cells," the DEA said, without elaborating.

As days went by, Chong told NBC San Diego, he "kicked the door many, many times," in a futile attempt to get agents' attention. He eventually drank his urine to survive, he said, began hallucinating and tried to kill himself by breaking his glasses and cutting his wrist.

"I didn't care if I died," he told the station. "I was completely insane."

When agents finally discovered Chong, he was taken to a hospital and admitted to an intensive-care unit for several days, the station said.

The DEA said Chong told agents he had been at the house that was raided "to get high with his friends" and that he later admitted using a white powdery substance found in his cell that tested positive for methamphetamine. He has not been charged.

"The individual is not currently under arrest," the DEA said in a statement, "and we plan to thoroughly review both the events and the detention procedures on April 21 and after."

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(Christensen reported from Los Angeles and Perry from San Diego.)

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(c)2012 the Los Angeles Times

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