The top Drug Enforcement Administration agent in San Diego apologized Wednesday for Chong’s treatment and promised an investigation into how his agents could have forgotten about him.
Chong’s lawyer, Eugene Iredale, said he intends to seek damages from the DEA and may file a lawsuit against the government.
“He nearly died,” Iredale said. “If he had been there another 12 to 24 hours, he probably would have died.”
The incident stands out as one of the worst cases of its kind, said Thomas Beauclair, deputy director of the National Corrections Institute, a federal agency that provides training and technical assistance to corrections agencies.
“That is pretty much unheard of,” he said, noting that, in his 40-year career, he has heard of instances where people were forgotten overnight but not for days.
The U-T San Diego was the first to report Chong’s account.
Chong told the AP that he went to his friend’s house April 20 to get high. Every April 20, pot smokers light up in a counterculture ritual held around the country at 4:20 p.m.
Chong fell asleep and, around 10:50 a.m. the next day, agents stormed into the house as Chong said he was rolling another joint at the kitchen table. The raid netted 18,000 ecstasy pills, other drugs and weapons. Nine people, including Chong, were taken into custody, according to the DEA.
Chong was moved from cell to cell for several hours and then questioned. He said agents then told him that he would be released shortly. He signed some paperwork, was put in handcuffs and sent back to the holding cell, a 5-by-10-foot (3-meter) windowless room. The room is one of five cells at the facility.
The only view in was through a tiny peephole in the door. He said he could hear the muffled voices of agents and a toilet flushing. As the hours dragged into days, he said he kicked and screamed as loud as he could. At one point, he ripped a piece of his jacket off and shoved it under the door, hoping someone would spot it and free him.
Chong said he ingested a white powder that he found in the cell. Agents later identified it as methamphetamine. Chong said he ingested it to survive.
The next day, Chong said his hallucinations started. Dr. Wally Ghurabi at UCLA Medical Center in Santa Monica said dehydration could have brought on the altered state of mind, and the methamphetamine could have made that dehydration worse.
Chong said he urinated on the cell’s only furniture _ a metal bench _ to be able to drink the fluid. He stacked a blanket, his pants and shoes on top of the bench to try to climb up and trigger a fire sprinkler on the ceiling, but his repeated attempts failed.
After the days dragged on, Chong said he accepted the fact that he would die and started thinking about taking his own life rather than enduring withering away by dehydration. He bit into his eyeglasses to break them and then tried to use a shard to scratch “Sorry Mom” into his arm. He stopped after the “S,” too weak to continue.
He said he wanted to leave his mother some message and that was the shortest one he could think of to write.
Then the lights went out. He sat and scooted along the floor, bound in darkness. He said he screamed for agents to have mercy on him and just give him a quick death.
“My breath was getting shorter and shorter,” he said. “I felt paralyzed. It was really hard to stand. I started screaming something ridiculous like, `Remedy! Revive me!’ And then that’s when the lights turned on and the agents opened the door with very confused looks on their faces. They said, `Who are you? Where’d you come from?”‘
Paramedics took Chong to a hospital, where doctors also treated him for cramps, and a perforated esophagus from swallowing a glass shard. Chong, who weighed 166 pounds (75 kilograms) before the bust, said he lost 15 pounds (6.8 kilograms) during the ordeal.
Chong spent three days in intensive care and five total at the hospital before leaving Sunday.
“The DEA’s answer to this is: `Oh, we forgot about him. I’m sorry,”‘ his lawyer, Iredale, said.
Chong was not going to be charged with a crime and should have been released, said a law enforcement official who was briefed on the DEA case and spoke on the condition of anonymity because he wasn’t authorized to speak about the ongoing investigation. The top DEA agent in San Diego, William R. Sherman, said in a news release that he was “deeply troubled” by what happened to Chong. “I extend my deepest apologies (to) the young man,” he said.
Sherman said the event is not indicative of the high standards to which he holds his employees. He said he has personally ordered an extensive review of his office’s policies and procedures. The agency declined to say what those were.
Chong said no one has contacted him personally to apologize. (AP)
<관련 한글 기사>
죄없는 학생, 감옥에서 소변 마신 사연은?
깜빡 하고 4일이나 방치
‘조금이라도 더 방치했다면 죽었을 것’
미국 대학에 재학중인 한 학생이 4일간 물, 음식, 화장실시설 등이 없는 감방에 강금된 채 뒤늦게 발견돼 탈수, 신부전증, 위경련 증상을 보여 5일간 병원치료를 받았다. 그는 또한 유리조각을 삼킨 과정에서 식도천공 피해를 업었다.
지난 21일 다니엘 정(Daniel Chong, 23)은 UC 샌디에고 기숙사에서 다른 8명의 학생과 함께 연미마약단속국에 의해 체포되었다.
그는 전날 밤 친구들과 함께 마리화나를 피웠으나 마약이나 무기는 소지하고 있지 않은 것으로 드러났다. 피해자는 심문 과정이 끝난 후 석방될 예정이었으나 마약 단속국은 그의 존재를 잊은 채 유리창도 화장실도 없는 독방에 가두었다.
피해학생은 소리를 질러보고 울기도 했으나 아무도 반응하지 않았다고 말했다. 그는 생존을 위해 자신의 소변을 마시고 안경을 깨트려 어머니에게 ‘미안하다’는 유서를 남긴 뒤 자살을 하려고 시도하기도 했다.
그는 또한 일정 시간이 지나자 환각 증상을 보이기 시작했다면서 “미쳐버리는 것 같았다”고 말했다.
마약단속 수장은 지난 수요일 다니엘 정 학생이 받은 처우에 대해 “깊이 사죄드린다”고 말하면서 그가 그토록 방치될 수 있었던 과정을 수사할 것이라고 밝혔다.
피해학생은 손해배상소송을 청구할 예정이며 정부를 상대로 소송을 제기할 수도 있다고 알려졌다.