SAN DIEGO --
A UC San Diego student who nearly died after U.S. Drug Enforcement Administration agents mistakenly left him in a holding cell for five days without food or water spoke about his ordeal on Tuesday.
Daniel Chong, 23, appeared tired and visibly shaken as he spoke at a press conference in downtown San Diego on Tuesday. He is still weak from spending five days in a holding cell and then in the intensive care unit with near kidney failure.
On Tuesday, he spoke to reporters about his harrowing experience.
"They pretty much ignored me right away," he said. "As soon as they said they were going to let me go, that door never opened and I never got released."
Chong was inside a 5-by-10-foot cell with no lights, no food, no water and no access to a bathroom. He had his hands handcuffed behind his back the entire time.
"Do what I had to do to survive," said Chong. "I cycled through my own urine."
He said he hallucinated and tore at the walls, hoping to find water.
Chong showed 10News the bruises on his left arm from where he broke the glass off his glasses and tried to engrave "sorry mom" into his own skin. He said he screamed and banged on the door but no one came.
"I heard noises," he said. "I heard footsteps… I looked through the crack in the bottom of the door and you see shadows going by."
He found a small baggie of "white powder" inside the cell, which he admitted to using. The substance tested positive for methamphetamine.
Chong recalled the moment when they finally opened the door to the holding cell.
"They looked like they were confused, freaking out, nervous," he said.
He also said one agent even rode with him in the ambulance to the hospital.
Chong was one of nine people arrested or detained after a raid on a friend's apartment in University City on April 21.In that raid, drugs, weapons and ammunition were seized.
Chong admitted he was smoking pot, which was why he was at his friend's home and was taken into custody.
However, he said he was told by a DEA agent that he was in the wrong place at the wrong time and would not be facing charges.
10News spoke with the DEA's office on Tuesday and was told they will "thoroughly review" the case and their detention procedures.
"When the war on drugs has this as collateral damage, you have to ask, 'Is it really appropriate?' said Eugene Iredale, Chong's attorney. "And if you are going to wage a war, at least can you do it without harming innocent civilians and bystanders?"
Chong said he credits the nurses and doctors at Sharp Memorial Hospital for saving his life.
He said the only apology he has received from the DEA's office was that they paid for his hospital bill. Meanwhile, Chong's attorney said they will file a claim – which is the first step of a lawsuit – against the DEA and federal government.
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