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Wednesday, May 9, 2012

Daniel Chong: The DEA's Lost Prisoner

     This has not been a good year for federal law enforcement. The AFT has been embarrassed by the Fast and Furious debacle; an ICE agent shot his supervisor, then was shot and killed by another agent; an ICE officer was convicted of embezzling a huge sum of government money; TSA screeners have been accused of taking bribes from drug smugglers; and Secret Service agents were caught partying with prostitutes in Columbia. Just when you think it couldn't get worse, the Drug Enforcement Agency (DEA) pulls one of the most bone-headed blunders in the history of the federal government's war on drugs.

     On Saturday, April 21, 23-year-old University of California at San Diego engineering student Daniel Chong was smoking pot in a house in University City with eight of his friends. That day, DEA agents raided the place as a suspected Ecstasy pill distribution center. The agents recovered 18,000 Ecstasy pills, several guns, ammunition, and other drugs, and took Chong and the other eight suspects into custody.

     After the 9 arrestees were fingerprinted, photographed, and questioned at the DEA office in Kearny Mesa, agents released one suspect, took seven to a detention facility, and placed the handcuffed Daniel Chong into a holding cell in the DEA office complex. Although being swept up in a federal drug raid was bad enough, Daniel Chong's ordeal had just begun.

     Because Chong was placed into a windowless 5 by 10 foot room with no sink or toilet, he didn't expect to be there very long. But as the hours dragged on, and no one came to release him, or take him elsewhere, Chong began to worry. To call attention to his isolation, he screamed for help and frantically kicked at the door. Still, no response. Hungry, in need of a bathroom, scared, and in a state of panic, Chong began to lose control of his body, and his emotions.

     A day or so into his confinement, Chong found a plastic bag containing white powder a previous detainee had hidden inside a folded blanket. Chong ingested the powdery stuff which turned out to be methamphetamine. (You can be cavity-searched at the airport, but apparently not in a DEA office.) The abandoned office prisoner drank his own urine, and by his third day in captivity, began hallucinating. In an effort to kill himself, Chong used his teeth to break out the glass in his eyewear, then swallowed the shards. As DEA personnel went about their business just yards from him, Chong, locked into his private hell, completely lost his mind.

     On Saturday, April 25, someone in the DEA office discovered Mr. Chong. They had simply forgotten about him. (I'm not sure why the people Chong had been arrested with didn't alert someone, or make inquires with the DEA. It's really hard to believe that someone can go missing inside a law enforcement facility.) When the bureaucrat discovered the incoherent, waste-covered, raving mad drug detainee, he weighed 15 pounds less than when they had placed him into the room. Had he been there much longer, the DEA people would have discovered a corpse.

     Rushed to Sharp Memorial Hospital, Chong, suffering from a failing kidney, a perforated lung, severe dehydration, and numerous other ailments, was placed into an intensive care unit. He left the hospital four days later.

     On May 2, Chong's attorney announced his plan to file a $20 million lawsuit against the DEA.

     On August 1, 2013, the DEA settled the Chong case out of court for $4.1 million.
          

3 comments:

  1. Jim,

    Being a police officer for 25 plus years now, I cannot see how this happened. When we bring a prisoner into our holding cells the prisoner is on video from start to finish. Also checks are made from our CSO's EVERY 15 minutes. This is a policy that is strictly enforced. Accontability?
    When I first went into police work after college 25 years ago, I thought Federal LE was the most hgihly trained LE in the world. But after dealing with ATF and DEA(not so much FBI, they have my utmost respect) I can see where an incident like this could occur.

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    1. You don't see how it could happen? Well!! Let me spell it out for you!! The DEA thought this individual had some knowledge that they could use, but he was keeping it to himself! Sop they tossed him in the windowless holding cell, and let his stew in his own shit for a while!

      Of course this country has sold our Fourth Amendment Rights down the shit hole for the glory of the failed drug war, so this kind of thing is quite legal and falls under the file of "Enhanced Interrogation", which the Feds just LOVE to use whenever they get the chance! Well this time they went too far! I hope he gets every dime of that 20 million dollars, and it should come right out of the salaries, and pension funds of the ones who put him there!

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