This story invoked for me one of Reagan’s famous quips: ‘I’m from the government, and I’m here to help.’
A University of California San Diego student left unmonitored in a holding cell for five days by the Drug Enforcement Administration has settled a lawsuit for $4.1 million, his attorney said Tuesday.
“This was a mistake of unbelievable and unimaginable proportions,” said attorney Julia Yoo.
Daniel Chong, 25, drank his own urine to survive and even wrote a farewell note to his mother before authorities discovered him severely dehydrated after a 2012 drug raid in San Diego.
Chong was detained on the morning of April 21 when DEA agents raided a house they suspected was being used to distribute MDMA, commonly known as “ecstasy.”
While detained, Chong had given up and accepted death, using a shard of glass from his glasses to carve “Sorry Mom” onto his arm as a farewell message, Yoo said. Chong lost 15 pounds and suffered from severe post-traumatic stress disorder, she said.
The DEA ended up seizing “about 18,000 ecstasy pills, marijuana, prescription medications, hallucinogenic mushrooms, several guns and thousands of rounds of ammunition from the house.”
As it turns out, Chong was never charged or arrested. He told a CNN affiliate outlet he’d been visiting a friend at the house and was not aware of the drugs or guns there. (Although, a previous story on the incident mentions that, according to an earlier statement from the DEA, “the individual in question was at the house, by his own admission, to get high with his friends”).
A DEA San Diego acting special agent-in-charge apologized in April at the time of the incident.
“I am deeply troubled by the incident that occurred here last week,” said DEA San Diego acting special agent-in-charge William R. Sherman. “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. I have personally ordered an extensive review of our policies and procedures.”
Officials have said this was an extreme case and an isolated incident. Still, it seems unfathomable how such a mistake could happen even once. And in the end, I’d assume it’s the taxpayers that are on the hook for $4.1 million.
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