Student forgotten in DEA holding cell for 5 days wants answers

Daniel Chong received $4.1M settlement

SAN DIEGO - A UC San Diego student abandoned in a DEA holding cell for five days without food and water is calling for action.

Daniel Chong is appreciably better today than two years ago, saying, "I'm alive and well."

Chong was detained in a DEA raid at a friend's house in April 2012. Drugs and weapons were found and arrests were made, but Chong was placed in a holding cell and was supposed to be released.

It took almost five days for Chong to be freed. He was left with no food or water during that time and the lights were turned off the last few days.

He was eventually released and taken to a hospital for treatment of dehydration and other health issues.

Chong received an apology from the DEA, as well as a $4.1 million settlement.

During a news conference Thursday, he told reporters, "I completely understand and agree that it was a complete accident. There was no malintent with it, but of course I'm interested in what really happened because of how inconceivable it is. I refuse to believe that someone would do this on purpose."

Attorney Eugene Iredale wants accountability from those who ignored their prisoner.

"Not a scalp, not a head, not for anybody to lose their job, just to know what happened; just to be told the complete truth. Somebody should have something put in their personal file; be held accountable; take a couple of weeks on the beach."

10News contacted the DEA, and the agency issued this response:

"The Drug Enforcement Administration remains deeply troubled by the unfortunate incident surrounding Daniel Chong's detention at DEA's San Diego Division in April 2012. Immediately following the incident, DEA implemented a new agency wide policy for processing arrestees and detainees. These procedures closely mirror the OIG's recent recommendations, and include routinely inspecting holding cells, assigning an agent or task force officer to the holding area, and maintaining an occupancy ledger for holding cells. The DEA is confident that these measures will help to prevent similar incidents in the future. This issue remains an ongoing internal disciplinary matter and we cannot comment any further."

The American Civil Liberties Union has joined the fight, Margaret Dooley-Sammuli of the San Diego ACLU chapter declared, "This summary is insufficient; the public has a compelling interest in understanding the full story."

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