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 |  qwints | 

    I set the over/under at -1/2 where a negative firing is a commendation.

  2. #2 |  b-psycho | 

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

    …so after all their garbage about “gateway drugs”, it’s getting arrested that moves him to meth.

  3. #3 |  Pi Guy | 

    Who wants to wager how many people get fired for this?

    I was gonna go w/ $1million on “0” firings, figuring I’d never have to pay, but I think qwints might be onto something w/ the over/under/-negative- odds.

  4. #4 |  me | 

    Yeah – what we need is a federal law holding custodians responsible for the wellbeing of those in their power. Fat chance.

  5. #5 |  David | 

    Well, the kid has a drug arrest on his record, so that’s one….

  6. #6 |  StrangeOne | 

    Well it’s for his own good. Its not like the government could have just left him in that filthy drug den, consuming dangerous substances, and neglecting his basic human needs.


  7. #7 |  tim | 

    I’m simply infuriated. At a complete loss for words. What these people did to the kid they arrested is so far and away worse than anything he did.

  8. #8 |  picachu | 

    You watch, there will be a national uproar when this story appears on ABC News, CNN, Foxnews, CBS, etc.

    Except that it won’t.

  9. #9 |  Jim S | 

    I see promotions in the future for some DEA folks.

  10. #10 |  Bergman | 

    I doubt anybody at the DEA will get fired…on the other hand, I’d bet their victim will be charged with possession of methamphetamines…

  11. #11 |  OldGrump | 

    I’m actually surprised they haven’t filed multiple charges on the kid already, if for no other reason than to try and make him a less sympathetic victim. Seems to be standard practice when LE screws up.

  12. #12 |  CyniCAl | 

    Fired? FIRED??? Bwahahahahahaha!

    Doesn’t anyone here know how the government works by now?

    There will be PROMOTIONS niggaz!

  13. #13 |  Longbow | 

    Oh come on now! Don’t you think we should give the benefit of the doubt to those hard working good guys in Law Imposement? If it was Law Imposement what dunnit, it was the right thing to do, because it was Law Imposement what dunnit! So there!

    Jeez, why can’t everybody just submit and comply? Just lay down and expose your neck when officer friendly demands it of you. Claiming the rights of free men puts everyone at risk, especially those souper dooper good guys in Law Imposement. Hell why do you think they have the Super Hero costume and bear the Magic Shield? It makes them impervious to being wrong!

  14. #14 |  Other Sean | 

    I have a friend who (forgive me) simultaneously applied to work with the FBI, DEA, ATF, and Secret Service. He showed me the hiring paperwork for each, and while there was plenty to cry about all around, the DEA easily took first place in the statist creepstakes.

    I can’t remember the exact wording, but there was a statement right on the application instructing the candidate that he must “affirm that I have no personal or philosophical reservations which might prevent me from carrying out the special mission of the Drug Enforcement Agency.”

    That’s fairly plain language by government standards, but still it took me a minute to realize what “personal or philosophical” meant. They wanted to make certain no one who came to work for them had ever loved a drug user or entertained doubts about prohibition. The wanted to narrow the range of candidates by excluding anyone who had reason to feel empathy for people involved in the illegal drug trade, no matter whether that empathy was concrete or abstract.

    To judge by this story, it sounds like they got exactly what they wanted.

  15. #15 |  EH | 

    DiFi and Pelosi are up for re-election this year. Just sayin’.

  16. #16 |  (B)oscoH | 

    I was born at Sharp Hospital and had a life-saving surgery there a few weeks later. They do great work.

  17. #17 |  Bernard | 

    I predict that someone will shortly come forward and blow the whistle that this was part of a bet to see how long the kid could survive.

    That person will then be fired.

  18. #18 |  EH | 

    I think it’s more likely that they were checking to see how much oversight the DEA is given, which apparently is none. They have free-reign, and I wouldn’t be surprised if they could be considered to have gone rogue, or at least allowed to be truant.

  19. #19 |  el coronado | 

    If the Ruby Ridge, Waco, and Elian Gonzalez incidents are any guide, ain’t nobody gonna get fired.

    They **will** get a medal or two, though.

  20. #20 |  Gordon Clason | 

    This is beginning to remind me of the antics of Sherrif Henry Plummer of Bannack, Montana.

  21. #21 |  Fascist Nation | 

    DEA cells always have the best drugs!

    “Here’s the deal. Plead guilty to loitering in a detention cell and we’ll reduce the penalty to 5 days in jail, timed served. Also you have to agree not to sue us.”

  22. #22 |  Roho | 

    They now have proof that marijuana use causes dehydration, malnutrition and hallucinations, and its usage can lead to hospitalization. And it’s a gateway drug, to boot!

    We gotta put a stop to this dangerous substance.

  23. #23 |  Other Sean | 

    I thought this story was depressing until I read the comments on that local news site. Out of 14 remarks, 7 come from people who are more or less happy to count this incident as a drug war success story.

    If the kid still has a spare shard from his glasses, maybe I should consider using it on myself.

  24. #24 |  Yizmo Gizmo | 

    What’s this ‘forgotten’ shit?
    Reminds me of the dude who spent 2 1/2 years in jail on a DUI.
    Incarcerating people, especially pre-conviction, should be like hunting…there are no accidents—there is competence and there is negligence, nothing in between. I’m surpised they didn’t
    waterboard the sonofabitch.

  25. #25 |  zendingo | 

    not as angry as i thought i’d be, probably because no puppys were shot during his time in the custody of the DEA.

  26. #26 |  Dante | 

    I predict the DEA will defend themselves by saying it’s all the kids fault.

    Then he will be punished appropriately by being placed in a putrid jail cell.

    Thank goodness we are protected from this dangerous teenage engineering student.

    Isn’t Law Enforcement great?

  27. #27 |  Boyd Durkin | 

    Who wants to wager how many people get fired for this?

    You know I do, but someone already put the line out there. Let’s play Police Bingo instead!

    1. No procedures were broken.
    2. We’re reviewing procedures to see if they can be improved. Done. NOPE!
    3. It’s just a terrible and unfortunate accident, but no malice.
    4. These heroes of the DEA are under a lot of stress with long hours and simply made a mistake.
    5. DEA won’t apologize (BINGO! Already in the report.)
    6. No agents fired before Nov 1 (6 months). They often let agents earn another anniversary for their pensions.
    7. Promotions for at least two agents that were in charge (killing peasants never even slows down career advancements).
    8. Settlement will include dropping drug charges in exchange for not suing the DEA.
    9. DEA admits no wrong-doing at any point.
    10. Prez says this was just a horrific accident but he does nothing else…people smile because he said that…Fox says he’s soft on drug crime.

  28. #28 |  Thom | 

    Sounds like they have him dead to rights on a meth charge. Fired? I smell a promotion…

  29. #29 |  Passing thru, may stick around. | 

    Five’ll getcha ten that the “bag of what was later determined to be methamphetamines he found inside” (direct quote from the CBS8 link) was a throwdown placed in advance by the DEA agents. Throwdowns are much easier to place in holding cells in advance than to “find” on the spot during the raid itself. Not even a chance of a witness when they do it the easy way.

    And the charges can be smuggling drugs into a jail plus simple possession. It’s a twofer.

  30. #30 |  Boyd Durkin | 

    #4 | me |
    Yeah – what we need is a federal law holding custodians responsible for the wellbeing of those in their power. Fat chance.

    This is Commandment #1 for my reform of the police state. If you are going to presume the authority to lock people up, you are going to be held highly responsible for their safety. No more prison violence, no more abuse…none of that. Don’t like it? Then you don’t get to lock people up. Go kill some furinners or something, you sick bastards.

  31. #31 |  rj | 

    The problem is not that this is a government failure. How could it be? The problem is this is government success.

  32. #32 |  Dan Danknick | 

    I did send a letter Amy Roderick yesterday suggesting she get the hell away from those ass clowns at that DEA facility in Kearney Mesa. I hope she wises up and does so.

  33. #33 |  marco73 | 

    Wait for the SWAT raid on Chong’s apartment, looking for more meth. If he has a dog, say goodbye.

  34. #34 |  Other Sean | 

    Bonus Nightmare: Imagine how this story would have been reported in, say, 1992, pre-blogosphere, when being the state meant never having to say you’re sorry. I can hear the evening newscast now:

    Anchor: “Some people just can’t take a hint. A local teen who failed to learn his lesson after being arrested for Ecstasy and Marijuana had the audacity to go on a Methamphetamine bender…without ever leaving his jail cell.”

    Correspondent: “That’s right, Blake. DEA agents have been overwhelmed here, fighting a local epidemic in party drugs. The suspect in this case saw how busy they were, and took advantage of some downtime in his cell to keep that party going just a little bit longer.”

    DEA Spokesman: “Our biggest concern right now is his health. Meth users are prone to neglect their need for food and water. This individual made himself very sick by refusing to eat or drink for several days. It may be a while before he’s healthy enough for his arraignment”.

    Anchor: “That should be enough to scare anyone straight. Next up, can the Padres make it three in a row…”

    To think there was a time when that kind of thing passed for information. I shudder.

  35. #35 |  Burgers Allday | 

    You kids need to see some of the policeone popo comments on this story. At least some think he is happy because he got to do meth.

  36. #36 |  Jack Dempsey | 

    Fired? I’m wondering how many are going to get commendations for this.

  37. #37 |  Pi Guy | 

    Law Imposement

    I so love that. Stealing!!

  38. #38 |  Sean L. | 

    No one fired.
    AND.. and extra $1 billion for procedures so this “isolated incident” “never happens again.”

  39. #39 |  Brandon | 

    #15, the entire House of Representatives is up for re-election this year.

  40. #40 |  nigmalg | 


    Who do you vote for? Both parties push this drug war bullshit. I have no idea what to do.

  41. #41 |  Cynical in New York | 

    Money comment in the article

    13 hours ago
    +12 updown
    Share | Flag
    Nice comments here. No wonder America is going down the drain. This country is filled to the brim with psychotic authoritarian scumbags who probably feel more comfortable living in Nazi Germany. Daniel Chong, sue the **** out the DEA, and then when you’re done, sue each and every single individual responsible for this. “

  42. #42 |  celticdragonchick | 

    Christ…it gets even worse….

    Chong said he could hear the muffled voices of agents outside his five-by-10-foot windowless cell and the sound of the door of the next cell being opened and closed. He kicked and screamed as loud as he could, but apparently, his cries for help went unheard.

    “I had to recycle my own urine,” he said. “I had to do what I had to do to survive.”

    When he was found on April 25, he was taken to a hospital and treated for cramps, dehydration and a perforated lung – the result of ingesting the broken glass.

    “When they opened the door, one of them said ‘Here’s the water you’ve been asking for,'” Chong said. “But I was pretty out of it at the time.”

    Chong also ingested a white powder DEA agents said was left in the cell accidentally and later identified as methamphetamine. He described having hallucinations, saying: “I was completely insane.”

    The agency hasn’t commented on Chong’s claim that he was without basic necessities for days. He also said the lights went off at one point and stayed off for several days.


    They turned the lights out and left him in a tomb, essentially, for days with no toilet, food or water…and he was handcuffed the whole time. No wonder he went fucking insane.

  43. #43 |  picachu | 

    Has any major new outlet picked this story up yet?

  44. #44 |  Passing thru, may stick around. | 

    #43 picachu May 2nd, 2012 at 1:09 pm wrote:

    Has any major new outlet picked this story up yet?

    The mystical powers of google-fu reveal several:


  45. #45 |  Tom | 

    Zero Point Zero

  46. #46 |  picachu | 

    Thanks Passing thru!

    I take it it won’t manke CNN or ABC News tonight then?

  47. #47 |  Whim | 

    Performing a Root Cause analysis on this unconstitutional and tortuous incarceration of an American by its own government would turn up…WHAT?

    Probably a contempt of cop reprisal by some sadistic Federal agent.

    The stoned college student probably mouthed off, so they stuck him in a cell to teach him a lesson….then, promptly forgot they had in a prisoner in George Orwell’s Room 101? Not likely.

    And, yes, the DEA will hereafter perform a thorough review of all policies and procedures. From their Lessons Learned from this inciddent, they’ll probably add a chapter to the Federal Prisoner Torture Manual, Version 19.7 (b)(2), on how to torture a prisoner to death without even laying a finger on him…..just let him die of thirst, handcuffed alone in the dark.

  48. #48 |  Helmut O' Hooligan | 

    #9 Jim S: “I see promotions in the future for some DEA folks.”

    Well, of course. They have to keep up with the ATF Agents who were involved in “Fast and Furious” don’t they.

  49. #49 |  Personanongrata | 

    Heckuva Job, DEA

    Move along here, nothing to see here but “professional” federal agents at work.

    Scalia’s Alternate Universe

    Posted by Radley Balko

    The following, from Justice Scalia’s opinion in Hudson, is an absolute joke:

    Another development over the past half-century that deters civil-rights violations is the increasing professionalism of police forces, including a new emphasis on internal police discipline. Even as long ago as 1989, we felt it proper to “assume” that unlawful police behavior “would be dealt with appropriately” by the authorities, but we now have increasing evidence that police forces across the United States take the constitutional rights of citizens seriously. There have been “wide ranging reforms in the education, training, and supervision” of police officers (cite omitted).


    Moreover, modern police forces are staffed with professionals; it is not credible to assert that internal discipline, which can limit successful careers, will not have a deterrent effect. There is also evidence that the increasing use of various forms of citizen review can enhance police accountability.

    Perhaps Antonin’s true-calling was/is stand-up comedy.

  50. #50 |  Passing thru, may stick around. | 

    #49 Personanongrata May 2nd, 2012 at 6:50 pm wrote:

    Perhaps Antonin’s true-calling was/is stand-up comedy.

    Actually, it’s circus contortionist, the rubber man. He does standup while licking jackboots at the same time.

  51. #51 |  Burgers Allday | 


  52. #52 |  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.

  53. #53 |  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?”

  54. #54 |  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.

  55. #55 |  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.

  56. #56 |  EBL | 

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

  57. #57 |  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.

  58. #58 |  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.

  59. #59 |  demize! | 

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