Thursday, May 3, 2012

Freed five days too late

Daniel Chong thought he was free to go when DEA agents told him he could leave after questioning him. What the agent meant was that he would be free to go after being locked in a cell without food or water for five days.

Mr. Chong was picked up in a drug sweep in San Diego on April 21. Federal agents served a warrant on a house and found some 18,000 ecstasy pills along with marijuana, mushrooms, prescription medications and other paraphernalia.

When asked why he was there, Mr. Chong apparently told the agents he went to his friend's house to get high.

Regardless of why he was there, once DEA agents were through questioning Mr. Chong, he should have been released. Instead he was placed in the cell and forgotten. During his ordeal, Mr. Chong lost about 15 pounds, began hallucinating and was close to suffering kidney failure.

When he was found, Mr Chong was incoherent and close to kidney failure, his lawyer said. He was brought to hospital where he spent three days in an intensive care unit. 
Mr Chong broke shards from his glasses and attempted to carve "Sorry Mom" on his arm.

To survive the ordeal, Mr. Chong reportedly drank his own urine.

Yes, these are our agents in the war on drugs. These are the agents we trust to "keep us safe." Well, do you feel safer now?

DEA San Diego acting agent-in-charge William Sherman said on Wednesday that he was "deeply troubled by the incident that occurred here last week". 
"I extend my deepest apologies to the young man and want to express that this event is not indicative of the high standards that I hold my employees to."

This is the incident we know about. We know about it because Mr. Chong was a college student and his family retained an attorney. What other violations of our basic right to be treated with decency have the DEA committed that we don't know about?

Most of the time we never hear about the abuses suffered by those arrested by the police. We don't hear about them because they aren't deemed newsworthy. We don't hear about them because the person who was abused is one of "them." He found himself on the wrong side of law enforcement and got arrested. Of course he's going to claim he was beaten or abused. Why should we believe the word of a punk instead of that of a police officer?

We rarely have photos. We rarely have video. We almost never have the admission of a law enforcement official that his agents mistreated someone.

The conduct on the part of the DEA is inexcusable. Did Mr. Sherman take responsibility because it was the right thing to do or because it was the only thing he could do? I don't know the answer to that question. I would hope it was the former.

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