The manhunt for three dangerous inmates who escaped from a California jail as officials reveal at least one of the prisoners may have been contact with a Vietnamese gang.
Police are trying to find Jonathan Thieu, 20, Hossein Nayeri, 37, and Bac Duong, 43, and are investigating how they managed to get out of the Orange County Central Men’s Jail in Santa Ana.
The trio, who are awaiting trial for a string of violent crimes including murder and torture, were last seen at 5am on Friday during the morning inmate head count.
They are now on the run and considered to be armed and very dangerous. Corrections officials have contacted leaders of the local Vietnamese community who Thieu and Duong are believed to have ties with.
Tieu, who is a documented member of a Vietnamese gang, was facing a charge for murder. Duong faced an attempted murder charge.
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Wanted: Southern California authorities launched a manhunt Saturday after inmates (left to right) Jonathan Thieu, Hossein Nayeri and Bac Duong escaped from jail. The search has intensified as authorities desperately try and figure out how they got out
Above is pictured the jail cell and vent screen that had been cut, near the floor at center rear, inside of the Central Men’s Jail in Santa Ana, California by the three inmates
The vent screen (above) had been cut and removed from the inside of the jail cell where the three men escaped from sometime on Friday, January 22
A cord made of an undetermined fabric that facilitated the escape of three inmates is pictured above inside the Central men’s Jail in California
It’s been revealed that men cut through half-inch steel bars, made their way through plumbing tunnels and rappelled down four storeys from the roof using a makeshift rope.
A source told CBS Los Angeles a bloodhound lost the inmate’s scent when they got to the road, suggesting a car may have been waiting to pick them up.
Police are also trying to determine whether they had any help on the inside and if a fight that broke out just before the inmate check was part of their escape plan.
Orange County Sheriff Sandra Hutchens said on Sunday: ‘I want to tell the public: Presume that they are armed and do not approach them.
‘I’ve been in law enforcement for 37 years, always working for sheriff’s departments that manage jails. And escapes do occur from time to time.
‘We try and limit that. We learn from the mistakes. I can tell you that this is a very sophisticated-looking operation. People in jail have a lot of time to sit around and think about ways to defeat our systems.’
‘We have people going to court, we have people going for medical treatment, and you can’t leave them locked down 24 hours a day. There are requirements that they get out and exercise from time to time.’
The design of the ageing jail has also been brought into question. Built in 1968, the 900 men who are housed there can move freely between cells and other areas.
However, there have only been two escapes from the jail and nobody has managed to breach the walls in 20 years.
Lt. Jeff Hallock, a spokesman with the Orange County Sheriff’s Department, said Saturday.
‘This was clearly a well thought out and planned escape’ that may have been in the works for weeks or months, the lieutenant told reporters Saturday afternoon, reported KTLA.
Officials said the inmates cut through half-inch steel bars and plumbing tunnels to gain access to an unsecured roof. Photographs released by authorities on Sunday show the hole cut and rope used in the escape.
All three men then used cord made of an undetermined fabric to rappel down four stories to the ground and fled on foot in their orange jumpsuits.
According to The Los Angeles Times, there was a fight inside the jail around 8pm that might have been part of their escape plane.
The fight delayed the headcount, which normally takes place at that hour.
The three escapees were able to get past security check points in at least three areas, the Times reported.
The exterior of the jail showing where razor wire was removed from a parapet, center rear, and a rope-like line, seen at right, is pictured above. Authorities believe the three inmates used the rope-like line to rappel to the ground during their escape
Investigators are pursuing several leads in their search, and in the meantime a separate probe was launched into how the inmates managed to obtain the tools to cut through the steel bars and plumbing tunnels to make it to the roof of the facility (above)
It’s unclear how they acquired the tools and how they went undetected.
Hallock said it’s the first escape from the facility in at least the past 20 years and could be the first-ever breakout from the jail.
The inmates include Tieu, 20, who had been held on a $1million bond since October 2013 on charges of murder, attempted murder and shooting at an inhabited dwelling. His case is believed to be gang-related.
Nayeri, 37, had been held without bond since September 2014 on charges of kidnapping, torture, aggravated mayhem and burglary.
He also cut off a pot dealer’s penis during one of his violent crimes.
‘The three escapees … are dangerous criminals,’ Orange County Sheriff Sandra Hutchens warned in a statement.
Orange County sheriff’s deputies and a search dog investigate early Saturday morning after the inmates’ escaped
‘My investigations team is working around the clock with the Orange County District Attorney’s Office, the Orange County Probation Office, the US Marshals and the FBI.
‘I am confident that this collaborative effort will result in returning these inmates to where they belong — behind bars.’
Nayeri and three other men are accused of kidnapping a California marijuana dispensary owner in 2012.
They drove the dispensary owner to a desert spot where they believed he had hidden money and then cut off his penis, authorities said.
After the crime, Nayeri fled the U.S. to his native Iran, where he remained for several months. He was arrested in Prague in November 2014 while changing flights from Iran to Spain to visit family.
The third escaped inmate, Duong, 43, was being held without bond since last month on charges of attempted murder, assault with a deadly weapon, shooting at an inhabited dwelling, being an ex-felon in possession of a firearm and other charges.
Lt. Jeff Hallock said at a news conference ‘We’re exhausting all investigative resources and measures to bring these three inmates back into custody’
Hallock said the sheriff’s department is doing everything it can to find the men.
‘Obviously the safety of the community is No. 1,’ Hallock said at a news conference.
‘We’re exhausting all investigative resources and measures to bring these three inmates back into custody.’
A $20,000 reward is being offered by the FBI for information leading to the arrest of any and all escapees.
They could have escaped anytime between Friday morning and late Friday night, Lt. Jeff Hallock said
Have you seen these men? The Orange County Sheriff’s Department has released this bulletin asking the public for help in locating the escaped inmates