This Inmate Filmed His Own Jailbreak and Turned It into a Short Film

The self-made documentary feels like a low-budget 'Goodfellas'—complete with voiceovers, freeze frames, and pop music.
Drew Schwartz
Brooklyn, US
July 27, 2017, 4:24pm
Screengrab via NBC Los Angeles's video

In January 2016, three inmates at a jail in Orange County, California, escaped, prompting a feverish manhunt that led cops more than 400 miles from where the trio broke out. Now, an attorney for one of the men has released footage the escapee filmed of the jailbreak to NBC Los Angeles—though "footage" doesn't quite do the video justice.

It opens—Hollywood-style—with a montage of news clips about Adam Hossein Nayeri, Jonathan Tieu, and Bac Duong's escape: three men at large, potentially armed, and "extremely dangerous." Then the film cuts to black, and the words "So… what really happened?" flash across the screen. In a move straight out of Scorsese's playbook, Nayeri cues the voiceover.

"My name is Adam Hossein Nayeri," he says. "A lot of people like to credit us with some Houdini escape act, all in eight minutes flat. It's an interesting myth. At those super quiet early hours, you can hear a pin drop… In reality, it is true."


Nayeri then chronicles the trio's daring escape step by step. Using a smuggled cellphone, he filmed the inmates removing a portion of a grate in their cell, crawling through it into the bowels of the jail, and hoisting themselves onto the roof. (In the original, unedited version, the Mission Impossible theme scores that part, though NBC took it out for copyright reasons in their version.) Sadly, the footage skips past the moment they used what Nayeri called "high-grade industrial ropes" to rappel down the side of the building.

The video, just over 15 minutes long, continues in cinematic fashion: Nayeri weaves scenes of their trek—from the Orange County Central Men's Jail in Santa Ana, California, to a beach in Santa Cruz, to Haight-Ashbury in San Francisco—with jump cuts, pans, and zooms. In the original, Queen's "Under Pressure" (also removed for copyright reasons) kicks in around this time, and we follow the escapees as they pal around, smoke weed, eat bananas, and fight to stay out of sight.

Eight days after they broke out of jail, the cops managed to apprehend the sprung criminals. Before the escape, Nayeri was being held on charges of torture and kidnapping, Tieu had been charged with murder, and Duong was accused of attempted murder. On top of the crimes they were already being held for, all three are set to be arraigned for busting out of prison next month, ABC News reports.

It's tough to understand exactly why Nayeri's lawyer would release the footage—it doesn't seem to help the convict's case—but maybe the escapee just wanted to tell his story, while he still had the chance.

"We scared the hell out of people, and caused a lot of anxiety and fear. And at the end of the day, I can't say I feel good about that," Nayeri says in the video. "[But] I completely lost faith in the system. Was it insanely wrong, wanting to give 'em one back?"

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