A University of California student spent five days forgotten in a windowless jail cell without food and water, and was forced to drink his own urine to survive. Now, the US government is voluntarily paying the young man $4.1 million to avoid a lawsuit.
Daniel Chong, a 25-year-old economics student at UC San Diego, was one of nine people taken into custody during a drug raid in April 2012. Chong was at a friend's house when officers discovered 18,000 ecstasy pills at the home. He was locked in a Drug Enforcement Administration jail cell, but after questioning the young man, a police officer authorized to perform DEA work told the student that he would not be charged.
"Hang tight, we'll come get you in a minute,"
the officer told Chong, according to Attorney Eugene Iredale.
But the officer never returned, and Chong spent five dismal days in the 5 by 10 ft. windowless cell. The student, who was still handcuffed, had no food, water, or access to a toilet, and barely survived his living nightmare.
"It sounded like it was an accident - a really, really bad, horrible accident," he said at a news conference this week, in which he described how close he came to death.
After three days in the cell, the famished young man said he began to hallucinate. He imagined that DEA agents were trying to poison him with gases that entered his cell through the vents. Deprived of food and water, he started to accept the idea that he would not survive. He bit into his glasses to break them, and used a shard of glass to carve a farewell message to his mom on his arm.
"Sorry Mom," he tried to carve into his bleeding skin, but he only managed to write the "S".
In a last-ditch attempt to stay alive, he urinated on the metal bench in his cell and then drank his own urine.
To try to capture the attention of the guards, he then stacked a blanket and his clothing on the bench to try to reach an overhead fire sprinkler. Chong desperately tried to set it off by hitting it with his handcuffed hands. He failed.
On the fifth day, Chong screamed at the top of his voice, trying to get the attention of the agents outside.
"I didn't just sit there quietly. I was kicking the door yelling," he said.
He slid a shoelace under the door, hoping to garner the attention of the guards. He succeeded, and "five or six people" came to the cell and found him starved and lying in his own feces. Chong had lost 15 pounds, and was immediately hospitalized for five days.