College Student Tortured by DEA for Celebrating 4/20

By Margaret St. Pierre

Daniel Chong by NBC News

The end of the college semester brings all sorts of stress. Usually money is tight, food options tend to suck, sleep is limited, and the workload seems impossible. During this time I often find myself thinking “what could be worse than this?”

After some mindless thinking about what could possibly be worse than dealing with the end-of-the-semester-bullshit, I stumbled upon a real life nightmare no college student would ever see coming.

College students do all sorts of crazy things to get by- eating a diet of ramen noodles, pulling countless all nighter’s and trading your once flourishing social life in for glasses of wine in front of the computer screen are all college-student standards around this time of year. 23-year-old UC San Diego student Daniel Chong and his friends decided that they would forget the stresses this time of year brings and relax with a little self medicated marijuana.

Chong realized he had made a poor decision sleeping at his friends’ house the night of the 4/20 holiday. He was in the wrong place at the wrong time when he and his friends encountered some unexpected visitors early Saturday morning, DEA agents raided the apartment in which Chong had spent the night,  seizing 18,000 ecstasy pills as well as other drugs and criminal weapons. Chong and nine others were taken into custody by the DEA for questioning.

Though Chong was not arrested or charged with any criminal activity, he was still handcuffed and placed in a 5×10 holding cell where he was promised a timely release. Hours turned into days and soon Chong began to realize there was a chance he might never get out.

Chong suffered in that holding cell for five full days.”They never came back, ignored my cries and I still don’t know what happened” explains Chong. “I’m not sure how they could have forgotten me.” The DEA’s official statement claims that “Chong was accidentally left in one of the cells” despite Chong’s incessant cries for help.

Several reports tell of the 23-year-old’s struggle in his cell as he tried everything he could think of to get the attention of the several agents he heard outside his cell door. Chong was forced to relive his real-life nightmare as he described his experience in the cell during a press conference. The young man first ripped a piece of his jacket with his teeth and placed the fabric under the door in hopes that someone would recognize that there might be a human being inside. To no avail, Chong was forced to drink his own urine in order to stay hydrated and ingested a white powder he found in the cell later to be revealed as methamphetamine. Chong stacked a number of his belongings including a blanket, his pants, and shoes onto a bench so he could reach a fire sprinkler. He hoped to set it off by cupping his hands and swatting at it, but his efforts were unsuccessful. By the third day, he found himself tearing apart the plastic lining of his cell walls in search of water as told to him by Japanese animation characters he had hallucinated.

Reaching utter hopelessness, Chong was driven into a state of mental disparity and soon attempted suicide by carving the words “Sorry Mom” after using his broken glasses as a torture tool. He wanted to leave something behind for her, and though (luckily) he had only made it through the “S” he decided that ingesting the glass might be a quicker and less painful option.

On April 25, Chong was found covered in his own feces and completely dehydrated. The DEA Agent who found him “on a total fluke” responded to his presence in total shock and bewilderment, saying “Where’d you come from?”

Chong was soon rushed to the hospital where he was treated for kidney failure, severe dehydration, cramps and a perforated esophagus. He had lost fifteen pounds and says he “had pretty much lost [his] mind.”

The Huffington Post reported on how Chong and his attorney’s were going to attack the tragic mistreatment of Daniel Chong with serious legal action.

His attorneys filed a $20 million claim on Wednesday against the federal agency, saying his treatment constitutes torture under U.S. and international law. The five-page notice, a required precursor to a lawsuit, was sent to the DEA’s chief counsel in Washington, D.C. The $20 million figure refers to the maximum amount that Chong and his lawyers would seek. – Huffington Post

Chong was forced to miss his midterm exams, and may be asked to leave USCD because of the incident.

I cannot help but feel nothing but sympathy for poor Daniel Chong. I know that while I’m sure he knew what his drug-dealing-violence-loving friends were up to, the fact of the matter is that Daniel Chong was an innocent American citizen who was treated in the most unlawful and cruel ways. I don’t believe that any human being deserves to be tortured with such brutality, but the fact that Chong was innocent in this case really upsets me. I wish the best to Chong and his family in successfully fighting the DEA for their mistreatment of Daniel, and can only hope that an incident like this never occurs again.

If you’re interested in hearing some outside insight on the story I highly advise you to check out this video. These two break down the situation in a way I find totally appropriate, and I think most of you will too!


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