Heckuva Job, DEA

Tuesday, May 1st, 2012

Jarring illustration of just how little consideration drug warriors have for the people they perceive as the enemy.

 A man taken into custody during a drug raid was left in a holding cell for five days, possibly without food or water.

The DEA says the suspect was accidentally left in one of the cells. During that time, he somehow gained access to methamphetamine.

Eugene Iredale says what happened to his client, 24-year-old Daniel Chong, isn’t something he’d wish on his worst enemy, and is now taking legal action against the DEA agents he says left the handcuffed UCSD student in a federal holding cell for nearly five days without food or water.

“He screamed hundreds of times for help,” Iredale said. “He began to hallucinate and he relates that he began to dig into the walls thinking he could get water that way.”

Federal authorities detained the engineering student after an ecstasy raid in University City April 21, where Chong admits he was smoking marijuana with friends. Officials say they seized 18,000 ecstasy pills, marijuana, prescription medication, mushrooms, several weapons and thousands of rounds of ammunition in the raid.

DEA spokesperson Amy Roderick says Chong was one of nine people detained in the raid and each person was questioned, fingerprinted and photographed in separate rooms.

Chong claims the holding cells were filthy, and used a bag of what was later determined to be methamphetamines he found inside to stay awake. But after three days, he became suicidal, breaking his glasses with his teeth so he could cut his wrists.

“This is an S in pitch black trying to write ‘Sorry mom,’ but I couldn’t even aim so I gave up on that one,” Chong said, showing his wrist.

Eventually DEA agents found him and took him to Sharp Hospital, where he spent three days in intensive care.

It’s likely that the kid avoided dying of thirst by drinking his own urine.

Complete and utter government failure. On so many levels. Who wants to wager how many people get fired for this?

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59 Responses to “Heckuva Job, DEA”

  1. #1 |  Burgers Allday | 


  2. #2 |  Andrew Roth | 

    Good news: NBC San Diego and CBS News are covering the case online. Logistically speaking, it’s low-hanging fruit for a national broadcast, so my guess is that it will blow up in a big way nationally before long.

    If that happens, heads will probably roll at DEA, and criminal charges could well be filed against the agents. This sort of thing will not go over well with the folks at home, and there will probably be serious pressure on the authorities to take action.

    I’d like to see the SDPD homicide division investigate this case as well. From everything I’ve heard it’s a crack unit with an excellent ethical track record. Attempted murder charges are clearly warranted in this case. Good God, any civilian accused of locking someone in a cage without food or water for four days and nearly causing his death would be lucky to afford bail.

    Generally speaking, and especially after seeing the kind of coverage that this case is now getting, I’m somewhat optimistic about the perpetrators being held to account. After all, Robert Gisevius may or may not get out of prison alive, and the Danziger Bridge killings weren’t remotely as heinous or inexcusable as the accusations in the Chong case.

  3. #3 |  CyniCAl | 

    Had a chance to do some thinking about this one.

    Radley posted a story last week about the son of a Philadelphia police officer who was tortured to death in a Pennsylvania state prison. I and others expressed apathy at best in that case. I personally attributed it to first reserving my outrage for victims of the state who are not children of State agents.

    This story is a perfect example of why I reserve my outrage for just such victims. There is a virtually unlimited supply of these victims. When the pool runs dry, then I will contemplate offering sympathy to others less deserving.

    Also, I find it interesting that eight acquaintances of the victim in this case were all processed without incident, and that the victim was the only one who did not have charges brought against him. My question is whether the DEA agents were trying to administer a little extra-judicial punishment because they knew they didn’t have a case against him, or trying to teach him a life lesson in the only way they knew how, or was it a true “accident?”

  4. #4 |  central texas | 

    Put me down for precisely zero (0). This will all become a slight procedural issue and shoved deeply, deeply under the rug. I understand that the kid is going to sue the daylights out of the DEA and others. He will win. We will pay. The DEA will ignore the whole thing because it does not matter a rat’s ass to them.

    At least I don’t think that the DEA has a union or fraternity to help them avoid accountability, unlike most city’s blue gangs. But they probably still have some arbitration privilege so that if anyone’s feelings are hurt by harsh words for nearly killing this kid, they will get a warm glass of milk, soothing words and continued employment.

  5. #5 |  Andrew Roth | 

    Another coverage update: An AP article about this case made the front page of the Mail-Tribune, the newspaper of record for Medford and Jackson County, Oregon, below the fold but prominent, with a very clear 3.5×5″ photo of Chong beneath the headline. The other stories on the front page were all local in nature. This is one data point indicating that the Chong case is not being buried.

    One quotation in this article from Chong himself has forced me to reconsider accusing the DEA of malice in this case: “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?'”

    I find it hard to believe that a jailer would be able to feign confusion or surprise in a situation like that. The notion just doesn’t have the ring of truth. The best explanation I can suggest for this incident based on what I’ve read so far is that it was caused by a clusterfuck of procedural laxity. It definitely demands a top-to-bottom review of the sort that the NTSB conducts after air crashes.

    In the meantime, the DEA detention facilities should be closed and their detainees redirected to Bureau of Prisons facilities. If the DEA facilities are to be reopened, it should only be after the top-to-bottom investigation is complete and the facilities have been staffed with agents thoroughly trained by experienced BOP staff.

    One of the main reasons that our commercial aviation system is so safe is that those running it are uncompromising about following established procedures to a T. Our better-run and more humane jails and prisons, including BOP facilities, seem to have similar cultures. The DEA clearly needs to establish that sort of culture at every one of its detention facilities and be supervised more closely.

    Another lesson from the Chong case is that detainees should be held only in facilities with dedicated custody staff on site 24 hours a day. It sounds as if custody duties at the facility where Chong was held were split up among field agents on an ad hoc basis. If that’s the case, it’s extremely poor procedure and a recipe for disaster. Detention facilities absolutely need to have staff who are responsible for custodial duties and nothing else. They’re the ones who have the time and experience to make sure that their facilities are running properly. Field agents simply don’t.

    At this point, I don’t feel comfortable with a rush to judgment that DEA acted maliciously. We need to figure out exactly what happened in this specific case in order to prevent it in the future. It’s extremely counterproductive to assume malice on DEA’s part in this case simply because malice has been proven in other cases.

  6. #6 |  EBL | 

    Well that will teach him: Don’t smoke pot!

  7. #7 |  EBL | 

    This sounds more a basis of gross negligence than malice. Still, I hope the kid embarrasses the DEA over this because what the DEA did was horrendous. Andrew Roth’s comments above are spot on.

  8. #8 |  Burgers Allday | 

    This sounds more a basis of gross negligence than malice. Still, I hope the kid embarrasses the DEA over this because what the DEA did was horrendous. Andrew Roth’s comments above are spot on.

    It seems akin to child endangerment, which is generally treated criminally. If a daycare did child endangerment then it would be shut down and its management prosecuted criminally. That is what should happen with this here jail and its jailers.

    Unfortunately, if that does happen, it just means that more prisoners will be found “hung in their cell” in the future.

    The real answer is video. Working video in every cell all the time. and in the halls of every prison.

    These cameras should be required by law, and upon pain of criminal penalty, working at all times. That would solve the “Ronnie L. White Problem,” and the “Daniel Chong Problem,” too.

  9. #9 |  demize! | 

    Served on a Federal Jury, drug case years ago. DEA biggest bunch of friggen lowlife goons you will ever meet.