For 23-year-old UC San Diego student Daniel Chong, a small, private 4/20 celebration turned into a Kafkaesque nightmare after DEA agents raided the apartment where he was smoking cannabis with friends in honor of the “high holiday,” took him into custody, and then left him alone for nearly five days in a five-foot by 10-foot holding cell. Mr. Chong was left without food, water, and any contact with the outside world.
“They never came back, ignored all my cries and I still don’t know what happened,” Chong explained at a press conference following his ordeal. “I’m not sure how they could forget me.”
Forced to drink his own urine to stay hydrated, Chong reported that he could hear DEA employees in the general vicinity, and couldn’t understand why they would ignore his pleas for assistance.
Federal officials detained seven people in total from the apartment in University City, California where Chong was taken into custody, and claim to have seized weapons, ammunition, and various illicit drugs as part of their operation. After the raid, all of those suspects were moved into separate holding cells in a DEA office in Kearny Mesa for questioning.
“Seven suspects were brought to county [jail] after processing,” according to a DEA statement about the incident. “One was released, and [Chong] was accidentally left in one of the cells.''
Chong was never arrested, and claims that the DEA initially told him he was free to go. He lost roughly fifteen pounds during his incarceration, and said that by the third day he had begun to hallucinate.
At some point, he attempted suicide by breaking the glass from his eyeglasses with his teeth and using it to carve the words “sorry mom” into his arm. By the time he was released, according to his lawyer, Chong had become completely incoherent.
Taken by the DEA to a local hospital, he would spend the next three days in intensive care, where his kidneys nearly failed. In the meantime, he missed his midterm exams at UCSD and may be forced to leave school.
According to the DEA’s statement, a thorough review of “both the events and detention procedures on April 21st and after” will take place.
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Join with Students For Sensible Drug Policy in calling for a United Nations investigation of Chong’s treatment by the DEA