SANTA ANA, Calif. (AP) — Three escaped inmates are back in custody more than a week after cutting through a grate, climbing through plumbing tunnels and rappelling to the ground from the roof of a Southern California jail.
Here’s a look at the inmates, their escape and subsequent capture, and the ongoing investigation:
HOW WERE THEY CAUGHT?
Hossein Nayeri, 37, and Jonathan Tieu, 20, were arrested Saturday 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 inmates after the escape Jan. 22. The tipster also said someone who looked like one of the fugitives was in the area.
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Police approached Nayeri, the suspected mastermind of the jail break, and he was captured after a short foot chase. Tieu was found hiding in the van with ammunition but no gun. He surrendered without incident.
Orange County sheriff’s officials posted video online of each man, wearing handcuffs and foot shackles, being returned to lockup in Southern California early Sunday.
The third inmate, Bac Duong, 43, surrendered Friday after walking into an auto repair shop in Santa Ana just a few miles from the Central Men’s Jail. He told police he had been with the others in San Jose, and the search immediately shifted to the San Francisco Bay Area.
WHAT IS THE FOCUS OF THE INVESTIGATION?
Authorities were interviewing the inmates, hoping to fill the many holes about the escape and their week on the run.
What did they do outside the walls? Where did they stay? How did they get money for gas and food?
Most importantly, sheriff’s investigators are looking into how the men got sharp cutting tools used to hack their way through jail walls.
Authorities also want to know if the trio had help. Five people outside the jail were arrested Wednesday in the investigation of the escape, but it’s not clear what role any may have played in the jailbreak.
Then on Thursday authorities arrested a woman who taught English at the jail. Nooshafarin Ravaghi, a 44-year-old children’s book author, gave 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.
HOW DID THE INMATES GET OUT?
Sheriff’s authorities say the inmates cut through a quarter-inch-thick grill on a dormitory wall in the jail and got into plumbing tunnels before sawing through half-inch-thick steel bars.
That cutting required powerful tools that the men would not have had access to without some kind of help, and could not have been done with something made on the inside, officials said.
The men made their way behind walls to an unguarded area of a roof atop the four-story jail building, moved aside razor wire and rappelled to the ground using bed linen, authorities said.
The roof at the jail is commonly used for outdoor recreation. It was involved in prior escapes from the facility, which was built in 1968, said Lt. Jeff Hallock, a sheriff’s department spokesman.
WHAT ARE AUTHORITIES SAYING ABOUT JAIL SECURITY?
Sheriff Sandra Hutchens said she’s determined to fix the security lapses that allowed the escape.
“Believe me, we will be looking top to bottom on that,” she said.
In a letter sent Friday to Hutchens, the head of the deputies union said his members complained nearly a year ago that department policy on inmate counts was not being followed. Tom Dominguez, president of the Association of Orange County Deputy Sheriffs, wrote that his members received “push-back from jail management with the justification that ‘This is the way we have always done it.'”
Dominguez called for the dismissal of Capt. Chris Wilson, who runs the jail. Hutchens said in a statement Saturday that she wouldn’t comment until an internal investigation was complete. She said earlier that no command staff change had been made.
It’s unclear how jail officials didn’t detect anything inside the dorm where the men were housed with about 60 other inmates. Lt. Jeff Hallock said the jail’s policy is to do walk-throughs every hour, and more involved searches are done at random.
In addition to head counts in the morning and night, personnel check the number of inmates against jail records at three other points during the day, Hallock said. He said investigators have detected some problems with how counts were conducted in this instance.
WHY WERE THE MEN IN JAIL?
Nayeri, Duong and Tieu were all awaiting trial on separate violent crimes.
Nayeri, who officials suspect was the mastermind of the escape based on his sophistication and history, is charged with kidnapping and torture in a 2012 attack on a marijuana dispensary owner to learn where he might have buried large sums of money.
Nayeri fled to Iran and was arrested by authorities in Prague on his way to visit family.
Duong is charged with attempted murder in the November shooting of a man in Santa Ana. He has done several stints in federal prison for burglary and drug charges and is the subject of a 1998 deportation order that authorities have not carried out because Vietnam has not provided the required paperwork to take him back.
Tieu is charged with murder, attempted murder and other crimes in a 2011 gang shooting outside a pool hall in Garden Grove. He was 15 at the time of the shooting and was transferred to the men’s jail when he turned 18.