In a settlement, Daniel Chong, 25, will receive $4.1 million from the government after he was mistakenly left in a DEA interrogation room without food or water for 5 days
The settlement, approved by the Department of Justice, was announced Tuesday in San Diego by the student, Daniel Chong, 25, and his lawyer, Eugene Iredale.
"It was an accident, a really, really bad, horrible accident," Chong said.
Iredale said Chong has undergone intensive psychotherapy and been diagnosed with post-traumatic stress disorder.
What happened to Chong, Iredale said, “should never happen to any human being on the face of the planet.”
The bizarre event began on the afternoon of April 20, 2012 — a traditional counterculture day of celebration for smoking pot. Chong, then an engineering student at UC San Diego, went to a house near campus to smoke marijuana with friends and found himself swept up in a DEA raid.
Officers from several police agencies raided the house and found large quantities of ecstasy pills and hallucinogenic mushrooms, plus weapons and ammunition, according to court documents. Unknown to Chong, the house had been under surveillance for days.
Chong and eight suspects were taken into custody for interrogation. After being questioned briefly at the DEA facility in San Diego, he was told he would soon be released.
But, for reasons that remain unclear, Chong was left for five days in a 5-by-10-foot windowless room without food, water or toilet facilities. He quickly lost weight and was able to slip out of a pair of handcuffs.
He suffered hallucinations. He tried to break a fire sprinkler to get water but failed. Instead he said he had to drink his own urine to survive. He screamed for help but soon became too weak. For the final two days, Chong was in the dark, Iredale said.
Fearing that he would die, Chong broke his glasses and scrawled the message, “Sorry, mom,” on his arm.
When he was discovered by DEA employees, Chong was covered in his own feces and severely dehydrated. He was rushed to a hospital, close to kidney failure and breathing with difficulty. He spent five days in the hospital.