US workers encountered man left in cell for days

Published on NewsOK Modified: July 9, 2014 at 2:37 am •  Published: July 9, 2014
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SAN DIEGO (AP) — Four U.S. Drug Enforcement Administration employees saw or heard a handcuffed San Diego student locked in a cell for five days without food or water, but did nothing because they assumed someone else was responsible, investigators said Tuesday.

The Justice Department's inspector general faulted several DEA employees for their handling of the April 2012 incident that left Daniel Chong in grave physical health, cost the agency a $4.1 million settlement and led to nationwide changes in the agency's detention policies.

The employees told investigators they found nothing unusual in their encounters with Chong and assumed whoever put him in the cell would return for him shortly. Chong, then 23, ingested methamphetamine, drank his own urine to survive and cut himself with broken glasses while he was held.

A three-page summary of the investigation does not say when the four employees encountered Chong or what they heard or saw, and the DEA wouldn't elaborate. The agency declined to say if any employees faced consequences, calling it an "ongoing internal disciplinary matter."

Chong was handcuffed behind his back without access to a toilet. He has said he slid a shoelace under the door and screamed for attention before he was found covered in his feces. He said he used a shard from his broken glasses to try to carve a "Sorry Mom" farewell message on his arm but only managed to finish an "S."

Chong, a student at University of California, San Diego, was detained in a drug sweep and told after brief questioning that he would be released. Last year, he reached a multimillion-dollar settlement with the federal government over what his attorneys called a near-death experience.

The Justice Department's inspector general found the DEA's San Diego office didn't have a system to track detainee movements, that holding cells were not equipped with cameras and that an employee assigned to monitor cells had many other responsibilities. Employees were not required to sign in or out of the detention area, and there were no reliable electronic entry records because the door lock wasn't working.



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