SANTA ANA (CBSLA.com/AP) — All three inmates who authorities say escaped from a maximum-security lockup have been brought back to the same facility in Santa Ana.
Footage released by the Orange County Sheriff’s Department offered a first look at the arrival of Hossein Nayeri and Jonathan Tieu to the Central Men’s Jail in Orange County, authorities said.
Both arrived at 1 a.m. Sunday.
Orange County Sheriff Sandra Hutchens said she was elated to announce the arrests of the final two fugitives Saturday after eight days on the run from the jail she oversees. But the tough work is just getting started to determine and fix the security lapses that allowed the escape.
“Believe me, we will be looking top to bottom on that,” she said. “We do not want another escape from an Orange County jail.”
Authorities said the last two escapees were caught after a civilian flagged down officers near San Francisco’s Golden Gate Park and pointed out a parked van that looked like one believed stolen by the trio of inmates during the brazen escape. The man also said someone who looked like one of the fugitives was in the area.
Police approached Nayeri, the suspected mastermind of the jail break, and he was captured after a short foot chase. A police recording captured the moments after Nayeri was spotted:
Officer 1: He running toward the pub.
Officer 2: He’s going back over the hill … back toward Waller.
Officer 3: Still running eastbound towards (inaudible).
Officer 4: Code 4, code 4, we got him down.
The second fugitive, 20-year-old Tieu, was found hiding in the van with ammunition but no gun, police said. He surrendered without incident.
A third inmate, Bac Duong, 43, surrendered Friday after walking into an auto repair shop in Santa Ana just a few miles from the jail. He told police he had been with the others in San Jose, and the search immediately shifted to the San Francisco Bay Area.
By late afternoon Sunday, deputies had released the 911 recording of when they say Duong surrendered to authorities:
911 Dispatcher: Santa Ana Police. 911.
Caller: Hi, I’m calling about Bac Duong. I have him here. He’s ready to turn himself in.
911 Dispatcher: I’m sorry, who’s ready to turn himself in?
Caller: Bac Duong. B-A-C. The three inmates that escaped, I have one of them here … He just came here. He’s scared to turn himself in so he asked me to call.
Authorities were interviewing the inmates, hoping to fill the many holes about the escape and their week on the run. How did they get the sharp cutting tools to hack their way through jail walls? What did they do outside the walls? Where did they stay? How did they get money for gas and food?
The three did not know each other before being housed in the Orange County jail. They were awaiting trial on charges including murder, attempted murder, torture and kidnapping. Duong and Tieu allegedly have ties to street gangs that operate in the shadows of Orange County’s thriving Vietnamese community.
While behind bars, the three were housed together in a large jail module that held 65 other men, about half of whom were in custody for violent felonies.
Early on Jan. 22, police allege the trio sawed through a metal grate covering a plumbing tunnel, then crawled through piping to reach the jail’s roof. There, they pushed aside barbed wire and used a rope made of bedsheets to rappel four stories to the ground, according to authorities.
Jailers did not realize the inmates were missing for 16 hours, an embarrassment for Hutchens that has prompted changes in jail operations, but no firings.
Yet, there were conflicting reports on whether anyone had been disciplined in connection with this jailbreak.
“It is our understanding that our members are being told a Sheriff’s commander has appointed a lieutenant to assume command of the Central Men’s Jail,” the Association of Orange County Deputy Sheriff’s said in a statement, implying that the current captain has been relieved of his duties.
The intensive search and investigation produced no tangible results for days and then, on Thursday, authorities arrested a woman who taught English at the jail.
Nooshafarin Ravaghi, a 44-year-old children’s book author, is accused of giving Nayeri a paper copy of a Google Earth map that showed an aerial view of the entire jail compound, sheriff’s spokesman Lt. Jeff Hallock said. She was booked on suspicion of being an accessory to a felony and was being held pending a court appearance set for Monday. It wasn’t clear if she had a lawyer.
Authorities say she and Nayeri — who both were born in Iran — exchanged letters and had a relationship that was closer than it should have been, but stopped short of calling it romantic. Nayeri is a former Marine who grew up in the Fresno area, and authorities say it’s unclear why as an English speaker he was in her class that teaches English as a second language.
The day after the escape, Duong allegedly responded to a Craig’s List ad for a white GMC van and stole it during a test drive, authorities said.
Hutchens said the men’s capture clears the way for an intense probe into how they were able to escape.
“We’re going to do everything we can in our power — and it’s not enough to say, ‘Gee, we have an old jail, it’s a challenging place,’ ” she said.
Built in 1968, the jail that housed the men holds about 900 inmates. It was the first breakout from the facility in nearly 30 years.
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