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DEA forgets man, 23, in cell for four days

A college student picked up in a drug sweep in California was never arrested, never charged and should have been released. Instead he was forgotten in a holding cell for four days and says he had to drink his own urine to stay alive.

Without food, water or access to a toilet, Daniel Chong began hallucinating on the third day.

He said Wednesday that he saw little Japanese-style cartoon characters that told him to dig into the walls to find water.

"I ripped the walls and waited for the room to flood for some reason," said the 23-year-old University of California, San Diego, student three days after he left the hospital where he was treated for dehydration and kidney failure.

Later he said, "I felt like I was completely losing my mind."

Four days later, agents opened the door on a fluke and found him covered in his own feces, Chong said.

The top Drug Enforcement Administration agent in San Diego apologized Wednesday for Chong's treatment and promised an investigation.

Chong's attorney, Eugene Iredale, said he intends to seek damages from the DEA and may file a lawsuit against the government.

"He nearly died," Iredale said. "If he had been there another 12 to 24 hours, he probably would have died."

Chong told the AP that he went to his friend's house April 20 to get high.

Chong slept there that night and, at about 10:50 a.m. the next day, agents stormed into the house as, Chong said, he was rolling a joint at the kitchen table. The raid netted 18,000 ecstasy pills, other drugs and weapons. Nine people, including Chong, were taken into custody, according to the DEA.

Chong was moved from cell to cell for several hours and questioned. He said agents then told him that he was not a suspect and would be released shortly. He signed some paperwork, was put in handcuffs and sent back to the holding cell, a 5-by-10-foot windowless room.

The only view in was through a tiny peephole in the door. He said he could hear the muffled voices of agents and a toilet flushing. As the hours dragged into days, he said he kicked and screamed as loud as he could. At one point, he ripped a piece of his jacket off with his teeth and shoved it under the door, hoping someone would spot it and free him.

After the days dragged on, Chong said, he accepted that he would die. He considered taking his own life rather than withering away by dehydration. He bit into his eyeglasses to break them and then tried to use a shard to scratch "Sorry Mom" into his arm. He stopped after the "S," too weak to continue.

"My breath was getting shorter and shorter," he said. "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?' "